Local Views: Where Do We Go From Here?

For 12 weeks, many of us have been asking questions about the BOLD proposal. Despite uncovering one factual error after another, on March 3, a majority of School Board members voted to close Withrow, Marine, and Oak Park Elementary Schools.

Board members were presented with a detailed document titled, “Findings of Fact: An Evidenced Based Summary Against the BOLD Proposal.”

Most board members didn’t even acknowledge this document; work that represented countless hours of research. To date, not one question raised in the Findings of Fact has been adequately answered by district administrators.

On March 3, almost 50 speakers presented serious concerns about how BOLD would negatively affect their children’s education. Some board members who voted to approve closing schools arrived with prepared statements justifying their vote.

Pretending to listen to parents, knowing the whole time their vote was already decided was a shameful display of disrespect to our community.

Any school board member who voted yes on March 3 sent a clear message to voters. George Hoeppner, Tom Lehman, Paula O’Laughlin, Kathy Buchholtz, and Amy Burback all endorsed the Superintendent’s plan and the manner in which it was achieved.

They all agreed that 10 weeks is enough time to push a major proposal through. They all agreed that collaboration with the community was unnecessary. They all agreed it’s acceptable for the superintendent to make false statements regarding enrollment, demographics, cost per pupil per school, research on consolidating schools, cost savings achieved through closing schools, and using a two year old capacity study claiming it was new.

These board members unanimously endorsed upgrading all schools to solicit votes for a $97.5 million bond referendum. They approved educational flyers sent to all these schools promoting upgraded facilities.

Many of us went to the voting booth on May 12, 2015 to approve the bond based on promises the district made. By voting to close Withrow, Marine, and Oak Park Elementary Schools these five board members agreed that deception is an acceptable campaign policy.

It’s no wonder so many are cynical about government.

At this point, it’s helpful to step back and try to understand where we’re likely to go next. Our tax dollars were used to conduct a randomized public opinion survey.

This wasn’t just a popularity contest to determine whether more people agreed with the administration’s BOLD proposal or the opposition. Despite the district’s dismissal of the results, 57% opposed to 39% in favor, the survey revealed much more important information.

It showed the public overwhelmingly opposes the direction the district wants to take. For BOLD to succeed, it needs public support moving forward. This isn’t a 6 month strategic plan. BOLD sets in motion a strategy that will take years of public support to implement. That support doesn’t exist. There is no silent majority. The current majority opposed to school district leadership grows daily.

The school board is ignoring this majority in favor of spending even more tax dollars on a plan certain to be overturned in the near future. This tone deaf approach is arrogant and fiscally irresponsible. If the survey is any indication, voters intend to change direction.

Voters will demand stronger ethical standards from our school board members and administrators. Voters will demand more thoughtful stewardship of our tax dollars.