Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Portage School Board seems un-American

The Portage Board of Education is the new poster child for board audacity.

They’re attempting to squelch board member Wendy Mazer, who dared vote against the majority’s “Groupthink”. They now want to limit her right to speak her mind; a practice that they don’t even enforce in the Kremlin anymore.

The ridiculous actions of school boards are legendary. Even Mark Twain once quipped, “God made the idiot for practice. Then He made the school board.”

But the stunt in Portage moved beyond ridiculous, and is offensive.

According to a recent Kalamazoo Gazette story, they’re attempting to a enforce a board rule that says, “Even if a member voted against the majority, the member should voice support for the board's decision when speaking with the public.”

How exactly should the dissenting member phrase that support? “The board wisely ignored my opinion, and I’m glad they did!”

What response does the Portage board believe would be appropriate when a dissenter is asked why they voted no? Perhaps “Uh, I dunno”, or maybe “None of your business!”

While board actions may indicate members relinquish their brain when elected, I have yet to see where it’s specifically required. Until now, that is.

An individual board member cannot speak for the board. And a board member has a responsibility to accurately convey a board’s decision, and perhaps in fairness should present the reasons supporting the decision. But in the end the majority is perfectly capable of defending their decisions, and shouldn’t demand that a dissenting member do it for them.

In fact, a board member should feel an obligation and responsibility to explain their actions to the public on a regular basis, which is something else that boards don’t seem to like to do.

Can you imagine the outcry in any other governmental body that expected those in the minority to stay silent! In some cases it would be a blessing, but it’s un-American nevertheless.

Consider that most forms of government have a two-party system, which inherently contains a set of checks and balances. But school boards are generally a one-party system, with little or no meaningful debate, discussion, or historical record of why decisions were made.

Boards get away with this silliness because nobody is watching.

They waste precious education dollars to hold poorly attended elections in May, where it’s quite typical to have ten percent or less of the registered voters participate.

Meanwhile, our state legislature puts one-third of the state budget into the hands of these school boards, and expects very little in return.

School boards have lived up to those expectations, and have returned very little.

An Anderson Economic Group report shows per-pupil funding has increased 59.6 percent since the passage of Proposal A, versus an inflation rate of 24.9 percent. Yet, every district claims to be broke.

Test scores, both statewide and nationally, are unimpressive at best.

The credit – or blame – for this falls squarely on the shoulders of local school boards.

Unless we are happy with what we have, it would appear school boards need more vocal dissenters. Thank you Wendy Mazer


Anonymous said...

I saw the story and I wanted to say to keep up your good work.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Reno:

You should note that a year prior to your joining the Rochester School District Board of Education, I was told by the Board President "that the Rochester Board strives to be unanimous in its decisions, and that people were talking about me on account of my numerous dissenting votes in the first 3-4 months on the Board." I "politely" advised her that if the rule was to always have unanimous decisions, then perhaps the Board should consist of only one. Similarly, I advised the Superintendent that I was not going to be a cheerleader for the Administration or a potted plant at the Board table.

Sadly, the liberal, education community in Michigan preaches "diversity," but then hypocritically does not accept diversity of thought or opinions. The "thought police" exist.

Anonymous said...

How dare a board think they can keep a member quiet. Board members do NOT give up their free speech rights when the are elected. This board should be ashamed. Amazing. Blasted liberals.

Anonymous said...

Un-American is right! Where is the ACLU? Where is Jesse Jackson? They should be screaming about this! Wow, this board should be recalled and fast.

Anonymous said...

So typical, someone who does not have a clue about what is going on, bases an editorial on a NEWSPAPER STORY like everything he reads in it is fact. What a joke. I read some of your other stuff. Obviously you have not had any training as a statistician. Say, I have a brain tumor will you PLEASE call my surgeon and tell him how to treat me? I would feel so much better. Stick to what you know, which it appears isn't much

Anonymous said...

Thank you Wendy Mazer for what? All I see is a Board who apparently establishes suggested working rules. Looks to me like Ms. Mazer didn't get her way and had her feelings hurt so she ran to the liberal media for support. But wait, in this case the liberal media supported her! What has this world come to.

Anonymous said...

Seems as though Mr. Reno is more interested in self promotion and name calling than genuine dialogue. I don't suppose he has ever actually studied the reason for non-partisan school boards but then again why should he? It is much easier to cast stones and destroy systems than to be a part of solutions. Solutions are much more difficult and of course heaven forbid anyone disagree with his position. I should have salted this with right-wing, intellent design crap but then I would be at a level that I would prefer to avoid

Anonymous said...

"Diversity" I get it! We can't have those "liberals", wink, wink out there. I suspect that at the first election in Rochester, if Mr. Reno runs again he will be defeated. I also suspect, and I don't have any knowledge of this. That he did not express his views to the voters but instead ran a "stealth" campaign so he could get his platform. If I am correct, why not express those views of yours which few moderate Americans agree with BEFORE the election? Dishonest, yes I think so.

Anonymous said...

Feel better now, brave ANONYMOUS poster?

Mr. Reno, Ms. Mazer, and others dare to have an independent thought, and not only do boards want to shut them up, but they need to endure name calling from people on the sidelines.

Why can't you try to make a point, rather than throw needless insults.

Or, if you feel compelled to insult, then at least weave it into some point!

Mike Reno said...

I am very familiar with the reasons some people support "non-partisan" school boards & elections.

There is a discussion of it here in an article by the American School Board Journal:


In a nutshell, those supporting this concept believe that issues will become "political footballs" and that partisianship would come ahead of the best interests of kids.

I have not seen anything that can substantiate those outrageous claims.

Debate, discussion, and compromise are what lead to the best decisions.

A two party system encourages that, whereas a "no party" system produces exactly what we see today, which is weak school governance.

The frequency of unanimous votes that happen without any debate or discussion should be your first clue.

That's not decision making; it's rubber-stamping.

David Zemens said...

It has never ceased to amaze me why people are afraid of the words of others, particularly dissenters? The system is adversarial by nature. It's important to question authority. That's part of the checks and balances that are so needed.

Why is it that so many of our public bodies want to hide their actions from the public?