Video is available – I recommend downloading it first, since the streaming playback is having issues for me:
[I am breaking this post into two parts – folks rarely read really long posts *grin*]
The Board Meeting got a little emotional. So what I am going to try doing in this review is to focus on behavior, not so much on people. I am hoping that this reduces the feather-ruffling. Maybe. Also, I was not present for the entire meeting, and even for those parts that I was present, my mind wandered a bit. And lastly, I don’t really want to repeat what the media has already reported on. With that said, let’s dive in.
I had to cringe when the “backdoor” word was dropped by one of the public speakers during open comment; I personally think that is more of a subjective lose-lose argument – nobody wins in a tug of war between “no I didn’t” and “yes you did”. Which we will see more of that later. In contrast to that, another public denizen couched his speech in terms of “positive energy” and observing how 2300 people want to be involved in the school system. That is such a huge difference in perspective. And I like it! He also mentioned alternative options. Again, we will see more of this a little later, but this, in my opinion, was such a good delivery; focus on the positive, introduce other paths.
The other side of the penny involved Unit 4 employees stating how much the children, the staff and the facilities really need a whole heck of a lot of help. For me, this was just weird. Not so much the content, but the fact that each one of them represented the system at which all the “opposed” comments were targeting. I know of at least two private individuals (ie, not Unit 4 employees) who support the working cash bonds – why are we only hearing “support” from those already in the system? I do have some personal experience inside Edison – I am a mentor and this is my 2nd year at the middle school. I have sweated; but because I was playing basketball and I totally expected to sweat. 🙂 I cannot say I have ever been in the classroom during the really really hot days. But I have been a kid before (believe it or not). I know it can be distracting. Yes, some of the windows are busted and there are signs hanging on them (“Don’t open – will not close”). The Mentor Room is like an oven – don’t know if it is because it sits right over the kitchen area, but gosh! To be honest, the biggest argument I can personally make for wanting to fix up Edison is more of a fairness factor. Especially with all the elementary schools getting some cool fancy upgrades.
What is more odd to me is that both groups share a lot in common. Both think that deferred maintenance is starting to catch up and we need to do something about it. Both think it is very important to be involved and to have a voice. Where they differ, from my perspective, is that one group wants the money now, no matter what; the other group is really questioning the “no matter what” part of it.
For a slight change of pace, a couple representatives from Blaylock Robert Van provided some suggestions for alternative funding. I must confess, when I initially heard them speak in financial jargon, I was quite lost. Some kind folks did explain things a little better to me; but still, the average joe sitting in that room probably had a slightly muddled interpretation as well. But the most significant point is that they presented options! Alternatives. Maybe they were horrible ideas, maybe they are awesome ideas – they are still something different than what we have been hearing (“the one and only tool we can use to fund deferred maintenance is via working cash bonds”). Again, some of the pitch (yes, I’ll call it a sales pitch) was carefully worded to include community involvement. I thought that was quite clever. I am not in a position to say if this is a bad thing or not. I did like the idea. But it causes me to want to know more about it, and to challenge myself to think really hard about the technicalities involved (since things like “retail marketing plan” to resell bonds is not really part of my daily vocabulary).
I was quite surprised when the Board allowed the Administration to, in a way, overrule and, in my humble opinion, spin the message just shared in public comment. I was surprised because it came across (my perception) as an emotional response. It caught me off-guard. The response was aimed at the Board Members; this was not a discussion, not a debate of pros and cons. In one sense, I can see the hierarchy of Board responsibilities coming into play, with the public in the right ear and the Administration in the left ear. But the episode did seem rather odd to me. I question if Board Policies allow this kind of interchange.
After Public comment, the next major thing was comments from the Board. Again, I am trying to focus not on the specific strengths and weaknesses of individuals, but rather on behavior and group dynamics. Having said that, my perception of the response from the Board to the public touched on various levels of being “defensive”. I was so much hoping for and wishing for an acknowledgement of the positive, as done by one of the public speakers. I did hear, a couple times, respect for the petition signers and applauding the guy who led the drive, so I am taking that into consideration. The overall tone was split between 1) doing what they were elected to do, and that is “what is best for the children”, and 2) no funny business, no under-the-table deals, no shenanigans, so stop it with the naming calling already.
I am going to single out Jamar, and I only do this because I have a deep respect when he said “bring me another option”. He has said this on several occasions – and WCIA even got a good clip of him saying that. 🙂 I truly hope that the Board as a whole is sincere in their quest to explore options – two funding options were presented at the Board Meeting. Will they be explored?
I want to focus on that point because for me personally, coming up with out-of-the-box ideas is a collaborative effort that must be exercised by all concerned parties if you wish to build trust and encourage investment in social capital. Yes, “the children”, our future leaders, are a huge piece of the puzzle. But not an ace to be thrown down on the table. They, like everyone else, are resources, players in this game. From my point of view, when I see heavily laden terms like “tyrant” and “backdoor” being tossed around followed by a “no we’re not”, that does not seem to move us towards building the trust that we so much need. To call a spade a spade, it just seems plain immature.