In recent times, West and East school board meetings have become much more lively. Undoubtedly, that makes for more interesting news stories.
More important, the more engaged discussions reflect democracy in action. And this is the way it ought to be.
We don’t want debates to get personal, and for the most part, they haven’t. But to make better decisions, it’s important to figure out all the pros and cons beforehand.
Even three years ago, both school boards’ meetings were mostly staid affairs, where officials frowned on any hint of controversy. At West, the results of such rubberstamping have become embarrassingly apparent. No one at the time questioned any of the now-famous expenditures in the bilingual program — $10,000 parties and all. Since then, just about everyone involved has felt the consequences.
At East, when allegations of assaults during a football camp surfaced last year, the instincts of the coaches and the athletic director were to get the permission of the superintendent before calling the police. Was this another example of the controversy-free culture?
These days, West and East board members have much more spirited exchanges. Just the other day, East officials got into a heated debate about the dress code for students. Superintendent Rick Romero made no bones about his belief that a dress code is ineffective, even though he knew some of the board members disagreed vehemently. And Romero’s second-in-command, LeeEtte Quintana, questioned whether Romero’s survey on the dress code had a big enough sample. This is the kind of free-flowing debate that makes for the best decisions.
At West, a populist zeal is now in fashion. Some board members are making a big case that the employees lowest on the totem pole get taken care of first. They are also making sure travel costs are at an absolute minimum. And some board members are talking about putting the district’s budget online.
This is a sea change from the days when the West school board preferred being a closed society and looked out for the big guys first, notwithstanding rhetoric to the contrary.
Clearly, the East and West boards have changed dramatically in recent times — for the better.