I hate politics. I fade out when they come up in discussion or I leave if possible. I definitely find another place to be when Brad is listening to the political pundits on TV. (I just looked up the word pundit. I thought it meant someone who likes to hash things over, but my computer dictionary says that “pundit” means “expert.” Well, there you go. I am definitely not a pundit.) I can’t hold up my end when politics get shoved into conversation and I try to talk about other things. Politics are depressing to me. They always seem to make someone angry or unhappy.
So….I should totally avoid the subject that I am compelled to write about right now, but I’d like to get out some of my feelings before November 4th when an important election is happening in my beloved town of Gilbert. It’s the School Board election. The whole talk of School Boards is a gloomy subject to me. Since I live with Mr. Public Education, I have heard lots about school boards through the years even though my first instinct is to put my fingers in my ears while loudly shouting “la, la, la, la, la” and pretend that School Boards are made up of intelligent, calm, easy to get along with, get-out-of-your-way-and-let-you-do-your-job people. They used to be. At least the School Boards and School Administrators I was acquainted with used to be. They worked together to make Gilbert Public Schools one of the finest districts in the nation. It was where you wanted your kids to go to school. It was where you wanted to work. There was a congenial feeling. People got along.
Something happened. Some of the problem has been going on for a long time. School Boards were set up to develop policy and the School Administration was organized to administer that policy. The School Board’s job is to tell the Administration what they want to have happen. The job of the Administration is to decide how to make those things happen. The School Board is the what. The Administration is the how. The School System works best when each tend to their own roles. The Administration does not need to be micro-managed by School Board members. No one likes to be micro-managed. A while ago a candidate for the School Board said that she planned on being a thorn in the side of the Administration. Why would you ever choose to be a thorn? And who could ever accomplish anything worthwhile with a nasty thorn pricking away at one’s side?
Here are some things I have gathered on a variety of occasions before I could get out of the way of the political ping-ponging that has punctuated nearly every casual gathering of friends and fellow Gilbertites. Citizens are concerned about our once fabulous school district.
I’m just going to write down concerns I’ve heard or had myself. You are welcome to rebut them if you can do it kindly and without animosity. We are all entitled to our opinions, right?
—The atmosphere in the district is toxic. That toxicity has been caused by a School Board that is difficult to work with and seems to enjoy drama.
—Many beloved teachers and administrators have quit.
—False accusations have been flying, causing some of the best educators in the state to go to other districts.
—Some wonderful leaders have been hurt, possibly irrevocably.
—One of our dearest friends and an accomplished administrator was told by her doctor to quit her job because it was badly affecting her health. Others had to get out before their health, too, was threatened.
—A very amiable and highly credentialed educator outside the district was asked to be on the committee to choose another Superintendent. He had to quit the post, stating that this board was impossible to work with.
—It has been said that a member of this School Board personally went door knocking to encourage citizens to vote against the School Bond Override which would provide for more teachers and smaller classroom sizes. A School Board member who was for Public Education would never do that.
—This School Board seems to favor Charter Schools. Why would someone run for a Public School Board if he didn’t believe in Public Schools??????
Which brings up some questions about Charter Schools:
—Charter Schools are sprouting up everywhere! Where do they get their funding? Is that money that has been taken away from Public Schools?
—Is it true that anyone can start a Charter School and that those who start Charter Schools get to keep the buildings that have been funded by the state?
—Is it true that Charter Schools don’t have to follow the same rules as do the Public Schools—such as employing accredited teachers?
—Is it true that some of our state politicians profit from Charter Schools and therefore make laws to favor them?
—Has this diverted money to Charter Schools raised the academics of our students in general?
—Good Public Schools are vital for a healthy community.
—When the Public School system deteriorates, how can it help but take down our community with it?
—A fear is that schools will again become segregated, leaving only those with Special Needs— who are not provided for at Charter Schools—and the underprivileged—whose parents can’t drive them to Charter Schools— to attend Public Schools.
—All should feel that their educational needs are being met, but the vast number of Charter Schools has fragmented not only State Educational funds but the emotional support and camaraderie of our community.
—So many have worked so hard and for so long to create an educational system where all can learn and grow together. We cannot allow a divisive School Board that doesn’t even believe in Public Education to ruin our great School District.
Get out and vote on November 4th. Let’s elect a compassionate, intelligent School Board that is pleasant to work with. Above all, let’s elect members that have a passion for Public Education and are capable of creating a workable strategic plan. They also must have the wisdom to choose capable leaders and the faith in those leaders to allow them to carry out the plan without the nitpicking and micromanaging of the School Board.