After the Referendum

In response to an email last night and two more today, here are some quick thoughts on the school district and Whitewater.

The gist of these messages is similar: was support for the referendum a good idea, in light of district report cards, and the airing of a Shirley Temple movie (The Little Princess, Twentieth Century Fox, 1939) instead of the school board meeting?

Support. Support for an operational referendum isn’t a gift to officials; it is a preventative against the disorder that would result from cuts to ordinary programming.  Advocating for the referendum (as I did) wasn’t a bargain with this district administrator, this budget director, or this school board.  I have nothing to offer government; they have nothing I want.

The most important referendum result is the avoidance of disorder, of the constant need for bailing buckets to keep the district afloat. Avoiding that prospect is gain for students more than anyone.

(A distant) second, however, is this: without a large project to draw attention, those considering district policies and direction now have a clear field for the next four years’ time.  Politics is now behind us, with instead a vast expanse of policy discussion ahead.

Maneuver & Attrition.  Over these years, this characteristic of officials in Whitewater stands out: they use mostly maneuver (moving this way or that at the moment) to accomplish their goals.  A project, a program, a press release, a referendum – they are all maneuvers, movements at the moment.  Sometimes big, sometimes small, but all are simply discrete acts.

Good policy and good principle, by contrast, work slowly, and are felt by power of attrition, by the gradual wearing away of lesser alternatives.  Other than a reply to a specific act of misconduct, officials’ use of maneuver doesn’t require a quick response.

So, about the report cards and that movie… Those writing will excuse me if I do not feel deterred.  First, one can consider the report cards deliberately, carefully, in context. The key measure will be which schools close gaps, and which do not.  Especially in an economically challenged community, gap-closing is an individual and community good.

Second, it does matter whether this city and this school district will televise board meetings properly, but in response to emailers’ concerns, one can say that it doesn’t matter whether meetings are avoided out of indifference, any more than it matters whether showing an old film instead of a meeting is an intentional taunt.  That’s seeing all this wrongly. Current practice is inadequate; what matters is a permanent solution that doesn’t allow for repeated gaps.

If Central Office, City Hall, or Hyer Hall could defeat open government so easily, and prevail so decisively, then we’d still have the officials we did a decade ago.

They can’t; we don’t.

Our school district has as its motto ‘every graduate an engaged lifelong learner.’  It would make a fine motto for any school.  An engaged, lifelong learner should be able to consider an event with equanimity, learn from it, and responding effectively thereafter.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

I supported the referendum also but not to watch a TCM movie or whatever the heck that was.
Report cards AND strategic goals were on that agenda last night.
It seems like once they got their money they it was back to OLD business.
Crazy how these guys think anything is OK.

A Town Squire
1 year ago

Best part is that the city’s cable tv commission is also the community involvement commission. “Because when you want to be involved in your community, you watch old Shirley Temple movies on the public access channel.”

John, gotta say it’s hard not to believe this is a city/district version of that flaming bag of dog poop video you had. Only now it’s on our doorsteps. Feeling punked by these guys.