You may have heard that last November, the $56 million Park City School District bond failed. Six months on, it is probably fair to say that it failed due to a lack of specifics, a lack of trust, and perhaps an overreach. It was a big failure. People in Park City are willing to spend big money on schools… and the fact that they weren’t willing with this proposal says something.
With that in mind, this week school board member Phil Kaplan announced he was running again for the school board. Fair enough. He took over for Moe Hickey when Mr had to resign from the board and was only on the board for about 5 months when the bond vote failed and only about 2 when the school board decided to go forward with the bond.
I would have been inclined to say, “Sure, let’s give him a full term to see what he can do.” Also, from what I’ve seen in a number of meetings, he seems like a very reasonable and thoughtful person. From community reports, he is also the school board member that has reached out the most to those who opposed the bond to understand their positions.
Then I read a reader-comment in the Park Record about Mr Kaplan running for the school board (I know, that’s a dangerous thing). The comment said, “The Park City Board should have new faces only. The failed bond was a disgrace, and now out of spite, the Board is trying to sweep pulling teachers aids out of classrooms under the rug without allowing the parents to know. Hopefully, only new faces will be on the board and not this guy.”
HMMM. The anonymous commenter makes a somewhat valid point. Sometimes the only way to deliver a message that things aren’t right is to unilaterally make a point. In this case, the point is two-fold. First, the school board voting to put the bond on the ballot was not right. Second, the whole process that led up to and created the bond was not right either. One could argue, if we don’t make an example of the school board members running for reelection, then how can we expect the next version of the school board to be better. It’s a somewhat valid point.
Yet, in the case of Mr Kaplan, I keep coming back to the fact that his background is probably what we want on the school board. He is entrepreneurial. He is logical. He has been successful outside of the educational world. When he speaks, he makes sense.
So, is it right to make a unilateral decision to “throw the bums out!”?
I completely understand the desire to send a message, but our community is best served by making logical decisions. Discounting a member based purely on the fact that they are on the school board now, isn’t a logical way to look at it. Their actions on the school board should, of course, impact your vote to some extent, but probably not at the 100% level.
I believe we should take into account that the current board members voted to put the bond on the ballot, even with its obvious flaws. Yet, that should not be the sole measure of whether a current member should be elected for another term. We should judge them on their performance and look at how they voted on other issues.
What makes it hard to judge a current member’s performance, based on issues, is that the school board always seems to vote in unison and somewhat speaks in unison. That makes it tough for the public to differentiate positions. If every vote a school board member casts is identical to every other member, our main means of judging them is by what they say. The only way a citizen knows what members individually say is by watching hours and hours of video of school board members every couple of weeks. That isn’t likely to happen.
That then leads us back to judging our school board based on the successes and failures of the board as a whole. If all citizens see is a board that acts as a collective, what choice do they have but to judge the school board members as a collective. The collective view is that the board pushed through a horrible bond. That would indicate that we should judge each member NOT ON who they are or what they say but by the simple fact that they were on the school board.
So, we have come full circle.
We don’t want to judge school board members solely by the failure of the bond, but we have no other option because they are not often acting as individuals but acting as a group. So, when Mr Kaplan says HE WANTS TO DO ALL THESE THINGS… the question we need to ask is … is he speaking for himself or speaking for the collective? Good question.
Where does that leave the voter?
… In a quagmire.
Do you believe that the individual matters with regard to the school board?
I suppose that is the fundamental question. Your answer to that question likely determines whether you believe we should either clean house or vote for the best person in the next school board election.