Thursday, October 28, 2010

Alpine School Board Elections

A few members of the Alpine School Board are up for reelection, including my representative, Donna Barnes. I will not be voting for Mrs. Barnes, and am deeply disappointed in the entire board. I feel they have grown to epitomize the "we know better than you, now sit down" attitude elected officials often adopt.

One experience I have had with them highlights this point. Recently a new elementary school was built in Eagle Mountain a little over a mile from my home. Prior to its construction my children attended a school which is literally across the street from our neighborhood. The kids walked to school together every day in big groups. Many parents volunteered in large part because it was so close. So when the new lines were drawn up and my neighborhood was being sent to the school over a mile away many of us protested. Parents attended meetings for months, came up with a viable alternative and presented our plan to the Board and its committee.

Eventually it came down to a final presentation at a Board meeting. Our group came in large numbers and had an impressive presentation complete with statistics and even traffic studies. It was one of the most impressive displays of grassroots involvement I've ever seen. Perhaps most impressive was that the presentation was based on sound argumentation and was devoid of needless anger or emotion. Which is an important point because of what happened next. Our position was far too commonsensical to be adopted, and we were voted down almost unanimously. One member even abstained from voting because it was just too hard of a decision.

That night I went home and penned an email which I sent to every member of the Board. Again, it was not a "Crazy Parent Being Senselessly Angry" email. Quite the contrary. But I did express my frustration at feeling like the decision was made months previous and all the work my neighbors had done to lobby their representatives on the School Board was pointless, that all of the information that had been gathered had been too easily dismissed. I received an email response from the Board president, who I assume was speaking for the Board as a whole, since it was the only response I got. And it was akin to being a kid who's parent tells them "because I said so, now go away." It in no way addressed anything from the presentation or from my email. I wanted some insight as to the decision making process, as nothing that was said at the Board meeting did so. Instead, I was told that if I was less emotional I would agree with the Board, that the decision makers are all professionals who have done this many times and if I weren't so blinded by emotion I would see it their way.

In effect, after a presentation full of data and checkable facts, I requested more detail as to what specifically overrode those arguments. And I was told I was much too emotional for that. Huh? Now I feel like the Board gave us a collective pat on the head and sent us on our way. What's ironic is that in their fear (I assume that's the explanation for their behavior) of dealing with angry parents, they have created angry parents.

This is not how elected officials should behave. Therefore, they should no longer be elected officials.


Natalie Gordon said...

Weird that my tweet came on the same day as your post! It is a total coincidence.

Your post demonstrates the kind of parental involvement that is SO IMPORTANT, and is so often lacking. I am discouraged by boundary decisions like this (and believe me, I have my own story - my neighborhood is on its third JHS in 5 years, and distict staff has consistently lied about the process - it's been almost a year, and I am still really upset).

I wish more parents would get involved like you and your neighbors, and that school boards would listen. This is so much more important than petty squables over things like mission statements. And, we all need to elect school board members that will listen and speak up for our children and families.

Keep up the advocacy for your kids!

UtahTeacher said...

I'm conflicted. Many teachers also feel the board is not responsive and I would have happily voted for an alternative to my unopposed incumbent 4 years ago.

But now, there is no way I can support most of the challengers who have taken up the ridiculous "Alpine district is secretly teaching kids to be socialists" position. It is the worst kind of unsupported, rightwing conspiracy mongering and tells me this person will believe anything said by the Eagle Forum, Oak Norton, etc. without support. They use the guise of "taking politics out of education" in order to inject their politics into it.

So I will be unexcitedly voting for my incumbent. Just as a matter of hearsay, I have heard that the Lehi area challenger (And I'm assuming Saratoga and Eagle Mountain--I really only know my area on the opposite end of the district), Paula Hill, isn't as closely aligned with those folks despite being endorsed by them. So maybe you will vote for someone we both support.