I'm Proud of You, Geneva!
Special applause for our School Board members, who volunteer their time and talent to serve the community.
As inexplicably as it all started, it appears to be as inexplicably over. And I say “appears” because, when it comes to the Geneva teachers union, nothing surprises me anymore.
Though I’m convinced the teachers will ratify the as-yet-undisclosed contract agreement the day this column runs, it wouldn’t surprise me if the union leaders had one more trick up their sleeve.
And I keep repeating the word “surprise” because that’s the only word that adequately describes this dynamic from the day it started until late last Monday night. But let’s move on before we unintentionally court any further Swiftian ironies.
Since we’re on the subject of surprises, the one pleasant surprise to come out of all this consternation is you—the citizens of Geneva.
If, two short years ago, you told me this city would present a virtually united front in the face of a seriously divisive issue, I would’ve told your significant other to lock up the liquor cabinet.
And some of that public opinion groundswell happened right here on Patch.
When you consider all the anti-teacher sentiment out there—something I never have and never will condone—I thought the vast majority of you kept your commentary within the bounds of rhetorical reason. And you did so despite the online union supporters who seemed to be doing their best to inflame the situation (a tactic perhaps?)
Not only that, but you kept the absurdly pointless conspiracy theories to a reasonable minimum. Take it from someone who’s been there, far more often than not, political groups operate on a “where the wind blows” behavioral model.
The best proof of good conduct is the Nov. 5 School Board meeting. Add 200 picketing teachers to an even greater number of disenfranchised parents, and I truly believed all hell was going to break loose.
My impetus for attending that gathering was something along the lines of going to a NASCAR race to see the crashes, but it never happened.
When GEA President Carol Young’s husband addressed the board and casually mentioned the two Geneva homes they own, I wanted to dive under the press table and shout, “incoming!” That had to be the most ill-advised “appeal” I’ve ever heard.
But instead, the few pro-board speakers who followed him made me proud to be a Genevan. And the rest of the crowd politely listened and reasonably applauded when moved to do so.
I also want to thank all the respectful readers who approached me that evening, especially Gail Ryan, who proved that disagreement doesn’t mean you attack someone on sight. I have to say she was exceptionally gracious.
Bob McQuillan’s poetic Patch commentary to the tune of Edwin Starr’s signature song War notwithstanding, even FACTS seemed to know when to zip it this round. With the vast pro-board presence speaking so much louder than words, they wisely chose not to speak. And they generally kept the online excrement down, too.
If FACTS continues to demonstrate this capacity to understand when to wisely withhold comment (something I seriously doubt), then I will be happy to return the favor.
But as much as you all impressed me, the folks who truly earned my admiration were those who serve on our School Board. Please allow me name each one: Mark Grosso, Tim Moran, Matt Henry, Kelly Nowak, Mary Stith, Bill Wilson and Mike McCormick.
Though this volunteer group held all of the political capital, instead of turning these negotiations into the kind of rout that would’ve haunted this district for decades, they kept their mouths shut and held their heads high when the best of us would’ve taken no prisoners.
By their leadership, they showed this city that you can stick to your principles, be respectful, AND still work your way through one of the most contentious set of circumstances we’ll ever see. If it weren’t a clear case of cruel and unusual punishment, I think we oughtta send ‘em to Washington.
Ah! But, it ain’t all wine and roses! There’s one more step we need to take.
Parent-teacher conferences are coming, and I’ve heard the rumblings about using that opportunity to provide the proverbial piece of your mind. While it would be disingenuous for me to discourage anyone from speaking their truth, that doesn’t preclude me from encouraging you to keep the board’s fine example in mind if you choose to do so.
Please remember that there’s a clear distinction between the union and the teachers.
You’ve made me proud, Geneva! Keep it up!