Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pay Attention

As our district goes through this difficult time, I want you to notice something.

This Board is not fighting within its ranks. Normally when there is a situation where a vote from a board of education is split, there is also public wrangling - name calling - and other childish behavior from those board members. (all we have to do is look eastward to Toledo for an example of such behavior)

But pay attention: this Board is not fighting!

Although certain members of the general public have evidenced juvenile behavior, by hollering at some of us, spitting at some of us, throwing their drinks at some of us, and menacing some of us by word or deed, the members of this school board are not fighting each other.

Last week we had a split vote. But while there was an obvious disagreement as to what is the best course of action to take for our district at this time, there was no rancor between us.

There is a reason for that. First of all, we are all adults and choose to act as such. Obviously that doesn't mean that we always agree on every jot and tittle of every issue, or that no one ever loses their temper - only that our disagreements are most always handled properly and with respect for those who hold a different opinion from our own.

Secondly, we are united in our opinion of what that TA would have done - and we are united in our opinion that its consequences, while extremely good for teachers, were extremely bad for our school district.

In an earlier post, I told you that - while the language the SEA used to write that TA was intentionally deceptive - the failed TA included a demand for 3.7% general increase this year, and 4.1% increase next year, something this district simply cannot afford. This Board is united in that opinion.

A few parents have written (or shouted) that they do not want us to reduce the income tax levy. Had more of them been in attendance at our board meetings when this was discussed, they would have heard us explain that we need the revenue of an income tax levy - not more property taxes, which are a killer for those on fixed incomes. While the former levy passed, it did so by only a very few votes - the count was excruciatingly close.

This district needs an income tax levy, but we need one that will be passed by the voting residents of our district. We simply cannot afford to have the income tax levy fail, and our decision was to place it on the ballot in a year with the largest voter turnout, at a level that we felt would give a positive outcome. This decision had absolutely nothing to do with contract negotiations, as some have suggested. It had everything to do with trying to secure a steady stream of income for the district.

At any rate, I want you to notice how Swanton School Board members conduct themselves. Although all 5 of us strongly agree that the former TA was unbelievably awful for our district, when we ended up with a split vote, there were no harsh words between us. We treat each other with respect. And we will continue to do our collective best for this district.

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