Thursday, February 14, 2008

Of Parks & Politics

Well, the rhetoric has begun! The Swanton School Board is now the object of a verbal assault by some Village Council members and a couple of others, over the issue of whether or not we place a renewal levy for Park & Rec on the November ballot.

No official decision has yet been made by the Board, but that doesn't stop them from crabbing! The common theme is, "How can the Swanton School Board be so callous as to eliminate Park & Rec programs that will hurt so many children??" and the classic, "This is gonna cause a lot of 'bad feelings' in the community that will hurt the schools!"


Sorry fellas, but the way I see it, if the Board chooses not to place Park & Rec on the November ballot, that does not mean the programs are eliminated. It would only mean that the funding for such programs would have to come from another source. duh !

Having had kids in various sports programs through the years, I can speak with some authority on how such things are handled. Coaches are all volunteers - usually parents. There are fees charged. Concessions are sold. In short, there are several ways to pay for sports programs that do not involve a school district levy. And just a reminder: we are unique in this, as no other park system in the state of Ohio is connected to a school district levy. None.

My personal opinion is that P&R should become its own entity, independent of the Village and School District. That is how other park districts in our state handle things, and it works much better. I am sure that our neighboring park boards would be glad to share their methodology, so no one would be reinventing the wheel. Anthony Wayne’s park district is a good model, for one. I don’t know that much about Delta’s set up, but perhaps they would also be a good one to ask. Of course, there are plenty of others within a reasonable radius from whom we could get information and advice. I don't know what all is involved, so I'm not sure how much time it takes. It is quite possible that there simply isn't enough time to get the task done this year. Some programs might have to be scaled back or delayed a year . . .

But for goodness sake, stop whining that the sky is falling if the Board decides not to renew the levy, and quit trying to spin the situation into being "against the children" or such nonsense.

Here's the thing. I am a parent. All good parents find themselves in the position of being "the bad guy" when a decision must be handed down that is unpopular with the child. The decision is made based upon the best interest of the child, not out of concern that the child will be ticked off.

Tthe situation with Park & Rec is no different. The School Board members were elected to serve the residents and students of the district to the best of their ability. They are responsible for decisions that are in the best interest (financial and otherwise) of the district. Period. If our collective decision on February 19th is unpopular, so be it. No matter what we decide, we will not please everyone. And that is not our job anyway. Our task is to study the issue, decide what is in the best interest of the district and then act accordingly.

Being of sound mind and tough hide, I refuse to place my vote based on someone's attempt to "guilt" me into a short term fix for a long term issue. Here is what I wrote to my fellow Board members the other day:

No one wants to be "the bad guy" - but the time for dancing around the issue has long passed. We need to have the resolve to discuss this at our February meeting thoroughly, so that Mona and I have a clear picture of the situation - and then we need to decide on our course of action (or, inaction, as the case may be).

We do our residents a grave disservice by continuing to waffle on this huge issue! Park & Rec need a firm answer from us. I get the distinct impression that they are deliberately dawdling, as they have for the past several years, because the school board has not been strong enough to act.

I see these options:

1. We state that we will place it on the ballot in November.
2. We state that we will NOT place it on the ballot in November.
3. We state that we will place a one-year levy on the ballot (not the 4 year renewal) to give them just a bit more time to get their act together, with the understanding that this is the end of the school district's direct involvement. (emphasis added)

Are there other options we might have?

I feel very strongly that our discussion at the February meeting must end on a productive note with a decision, no matter what that decision happens to be. Our character as a board should be strong enough to make decisions - not allow a decision to be made by default of our inaction or by a stated perception of potential "bad publicity". We were each elected to serve the Swanton School District and to keep its best interests foremost in our deliberations.

So - there's my two cents worth! :-)

No comments: