On Monday night, Whitewater’s school board met first in closed session, and about an hour later in open session. (A video of the open session is embedded above.)
Part way into the meeting, after a summary of the latest developments concerning the nearby Palmyra-Eagle School District, a candidate for that school district’s board spoke during a moment of public comment.
(Whitewater’s school board initially backed a plan to divide the Palmyra-Eagle District, taking a part of that district for itself. Later, the Whitewater district wisely abandoned that ill-conceived plan See On the Dissolution of the Palmyra-Eagle School District, Reason Carries the Day, (2) Educational (Among Other) Uncertainties in Rural Communities, (3) School Board, 10.28.19: 3 Points, and (4) Dissolving a School District.)
The Palmyra-Eagle board candidate commented on Whitewater’s reversal (18:58 on video):
And I was here the night you guys passed the east-west resolution and I have got to tell you that was really hard for us walking out of here, we felt really defeated, but I want to say coming back here tonight I feel a lot better.
Later in the meeting, Whitewater’s interim administrator offered his own observations (49:20 on the video):
We’re not in competition with other school districts; at least I don’t feel we are. And when another school district is hurt, there’s frequently some kind of impact on us, and when they succeed it’s good for all of us.
That’s right, both as an educational matter and a practical perspective on how rural communities are now in similar economic conditions. Rivalrous approaches simply ignore the futility of district-specific boosterism.
Years before Whitewater’s interim district administrator arrived, this school district cherry-picked sketchy ACT data to boost itself at the expense of nearby school districts. See Whitewater’s ACT Scores, Whitewater’s ACT Scores and Participation Rates, Whitewater’s ACT Participation Rate Near the Bottom of Area Schools, and The Better, Reasoned Approach on ACT Scores.
A Whitewater promotional flyer even claimed that Whitewater had “eclipsed” nearby districts in her test scores. It was a dishonest claim at the time; it’s simply ridiculous now. No one is eclipsing anyone in our area; all these districts find themselves under the same penumbra of stagnant local economies, brain drain, and lapsing acculturation.
The unmet challenge is to recognize, to speak, and to act on conditions as they are, setting aside forever Old Whitewater’s addiction to public relations and puffery.