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Board majority must reveal vision

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By Greg Romberg

Maybe they just got tired of being called the new conservative majority.

How else can you explain school board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams voting to pay, including performance incentives, new superintendent Daniel McMinimee almost 40 percent more than his predecessor and to give him a five-year contract despite the fact that he’s never been a superintendent before? The decision doesn’t meet any definition of conservative I’ve ever heard.
But now it’s done, and it’s time to move on. No one, particularly the children who rely on this school district for the education that will set the stage for their futures, benefits from the side show we’ve all been watching since last November’s elections. And from my perspective, all involved need to modify their behavior if we’re to have any meaningful meeting of the minds and a constructive dialogue to benefit our kids.

Let’s start with the new board majority. It’s fine to say you are reformers, but now you must let us know what that means. The election should have created a clear vision, but it did not. If your reform agenda means more choices for parents and students through additional choice and charter schools, and more equitable funding for them, those are reasonable goals that can be pursued without undue disruption to the rest of the district. If the reform agenda means pursuing vouchers for private schools and busting the teachers union, that’s well beyond what most residents of Jefferson County would support. In any event, the board majority owes us a clear vision that is consistent with their campaign statements.

The board minority and the district employees, parents and community members who have protested virtually every action of the new majority also need a more constructive platform. If nearly as much effort had been put into electing their preferred candidates last November as has been spent protesting since then, it’s likely the election would have turned out differently. But it didn’t, and we need to expect the same civil discourse as we do from kids attending school. We don’t need to shout down duly elected officials at public meetings. We don’t need to oppose things simply because of who has proposed them. Much as the board majority needs to articulate a clearly defined agenda, the loyal opposition needs to articulate its specific concerns and needs to find a way to do so constructively.

So, Mr. McMinimee, what can you do to earn that big salary and take advantage of the security a five-year contract provides? First, get the board to express a clear, easy-to-understand agenda. See what you can do to get all five members on the same page to heal some of the divisions we’ve faced the last several months. Second, figure out a way to get the teachers’ contract extended beyond the one year that was recently negotiated. There is no benefit to anyone of busting the union, and you can make great strides in overcoming suspicion of your Douglas County background by serving as a labor peacemaker. Convince the board members who hired you that neither you nor they can achieve success unless and until temperatures cool and we find ways for all interested parties to communicate with one another.

And to everyone involved, please figure out how to proceed more constructively. Kids suffer when large numbers of teachers are worrying about their futures, and all of our property values will suffer if homebuyers decide to avoid Jefferson County because of discord in our public schools.

Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates, a government relations and public affairs firm. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie, and three daughters.