Bows and Arrows: A Review of Monday's School Board Meeting
There were some very good moments and some not-so-good at Monday's School Board meeting.
I think it might have been the great Joe Gillette who brought to The Beacon-News editorial page a fun feature called "Bows and Arrows."
It was an opinion piece in which The Beacon's editorial board handed out "bows" for good works, good deeds and good behavior and "arrows" for not-so-wonderful works, deeds and behaviors.
As I recall, there was a cute "bow" (as in a tied ribbon) graphic and an "arrow" (pointy projectile) graphic that went with each item.
There are a few bow-and-ribbon moments from Monday's School Board meeting that I'd like to highlight, just for the record and to make note of moments that didn't make the "QuickStory" that followed. Please envision the little "bow" graphic and "arrow" graphic before each bullet point and remember that this article falls under the heading of "opinion."
BOW—I think School Board President Mark Grosso deserves a lot of credit for addressing the "Enrollmentgate" issue publicly, for his sense of humor and for his calm demeanor in the face of a very difficult set of circumstances. Consider that Grosso was the only School Board member (as far as we know) who took time to examine the enrollment projections going back to pre-referendum 2007, interview board members past and present, and offer an explanation. (Grosso had a wonderful moment before launching into his enrollment discussion, saying the Monday audience was "more than I had for my sixth-grade trumpet solo.")
ARROW—The School Board had an opportunity to listen to the concerns of TaxFACTS members and members of the general public (I know there were some non-TaxFACTS folks in the audience who just wanted to get a better understanding of the situation), and it was an opportunity lost. A motion and second to re-open the public comment session would have been appropriate and considerate.
BOW—A citizen or group of citizens has every right to question a government organization about its dissemination of information and spending policies. In fact, that's what good citizens should do. I'm presenting a BOW to the audience members who are taking an interest in local government and participating in the process.
ARROW—Many of the same folks weren't on their best behavior when they didn't get the action they expected. Shouting at the dais might relieve some anger and frustration, but it doesn't help the cause.
BOW—To the Board of Education for providing two opportunities at each meeting for public comment—and for adding a public comment period for the Finance Committee meeting, which was announced Monday night.
ARROW—To the Board of Education for holding on to the long-held notion that board meetings aren't the proper settings for public dialogue. The Geneva City Council is a good example of a public body that allows ample time and opportunity for the public to speak. The council has the authority to put time limits and shut down audience participation—but chooses not to. More often, particpation actually is encouraged at City Hall. (A future BOW.)
BOW—To School Board member Matt Henry for acknowledging the good works of Mary Bencini in his comment time. Mary had many wonderful memorials over the weekend and prior to that, but it was good for the School Board to acknowledge her at its meeting. "People who sat on different boards with her said the first person to raise her hand was Mary," Henry said. "She wasn’t somebody who looked to make herself important, but she looked to make the community important. I think we can all learn from her, even after her passing."
ARROW—To anyone who took issue with Henry making those comments.
BOW—To the students who took time to be recognized at the board meeting for the Tradition of Excellence Award.
ARROW—To students and parents who don't take the time to go to the School Board meeting to receive the awards. We know students are incredibly busy these days, but at the previous few meetings, more than half of the students whose names were read were not in attendance.
BOW—To School Board member Mary Stith, for excellent and smart suggestions that the School Board share information about empty seats and program capacity, and that the board consider the elimination of class rankings. "Studies have shown it (elimination of class ranking) is probably a better way to go," she said.
BOW—To Pam Cabeen and Martha Bellow, who organize the annual out-of-country world travel opportunity for French students. This year's trip is to Brittany. As Dr. Kent Mutchler points out, "It costs the district nothing, and it only takes place if there are enough students to take part in this."
BOW—To members of the Drama Boosters and Music Boosters who are raising money to help pay for new seats and carpeting for the auditorium. That type of volunteerism and activism never goes out of style.
BOW—To Heartland Elementary Principal Adam Law for his School Improvement Plan presentation Monday night. An incredible 100 percent of fifth-grade students met or exceeded standards in math. That's a WOW as well as a BOW. (Please note that ALL school-improvement plans have been excellent.)
BOW—To Scott Ney, interim director of facility operations, who was presented an award from the Illinois Association of School Business Officials for completion of its Facility Management Designation Program.
I'm stacking up more bows than arrows, which is representative of my world view, perhaps, but also is an acknowledgement that way more good takes place at a School Board meeting than bad. That goes not only for education and student achievement, but for the participation of Geneva's elected officials, administrators, teachers and citizens.