Throwing rocks doesn’t change things but activism can
Where does vandalism against a school official and bullying by local company intersect? No, it’s not Welcoming Schools. It’s a lesson in how you elicit change.
Last week, Park City School District Superintendent Jill Gildea was a target of vandalism. A rock was thrown through her window. It could have been a disgruntled teenager upset over early start times at the high school. However, it was most likely an idiot who was upset at the School District for spending extra money on a house they bought for the Super. The only thing comical about the vandalism is that someone was so upset that the school district was spending money that they threw a rock. Now they have likely caused the school district and Summit County to spend thousands of more dollars in fixing the window, security services, and sheriff patrols.
Did throwing a rock through a window, terrifying a family, and getting community-wide condemnation achieve anything?
Contrast that with the uproar over Backcountry.com. They were suing any small business that used the word backcountry. The Colorado Sun published multiple stories about it. People became enraged. Boycott’s ensued.
Backcountry’s CEO responded:
Which approach to change was more successful — throwing a rock or activism?
The problem with the rock, besides of course demonstrating the worst in human beings, is that whoever threw it has made it harder for those of us who oppose purchasing a house to be used by the Superintendent. Now, those of us who don’t like how our tax dollars are spent are lumped in with the crazies. When I get up and speak in front of the school board and say I don’t like that we spent $800,000 on a fixer-upper that will need another couple hundred grand invested, I’ll be looked upon as a “Rock-thrower.” It will be the new derogatory term that replaces NIMBY. Thanks for that.
How could it have been handled differently?
- Write a letter to the school board members expressing your concerns. Trust me, they read this stuff and consider it.
- Go to every school board meeting for six months, and during the Public Comment period, say the same thing over and over. Speak your piece, and it may influence change.
- Email your school board representative and ask them to meet for coffee so that you can plead your case.
- Organize a Facebook group that says no more additional money for schools until the Super’s house is sold. PCSD’s Master Planning effort is going to end in a bond. South Summit’s bond failure tells you that anything is possible (whether it’s right or not).
Any of these ideas that took me ten minutes to come up with would be more effective at achieving change than throwing a rock.
Violence is rarely the answer. I get why it is happening in Hong Kong, but we have other methods here. If you don’t like what the school board is doing, vote them out. Organize and find like-minded people. They are out there. You can achieve change. We can achieve change, but we need to do it in the right way. We should do it in a way that is thoughtful, considerate, and effective.
Intimidation and violence don’t solve anything. Don’t be stupid. Don’t be spiteful. We as a community need to be better than that.
Thanks for the article Josh. I’d suggest an alternative. The community should ask more questions, ask why the board bought a house. We did this because in order to attract a high quality candidate to a district with educational goals as lofty as park city we needed to provide a compensation package that made living in this community comfortably a possibility. We were advised by professional search consultants that districts like ours ie ones with very high home prices either needed to provide a stipend or a district home. We decided for an asset purchase rather then a rental stipend.
We are pleased with the work that Dr Gildea and her team are doing in the district and I think we should stop and reflect on the overall job that our educators are doing and the results they are producing rather then fixate on one aspect of compensation.
To suggest that hijacking a bond or voting out a volunteer board of parents and teachers who spend their time on behalf of the communities children due to one line item in an 80 million dollar a year budget is frankly an immature and irresponsible suggestion. This is the divisiveness that our community does not need.
As you correctly point out the board is open to all kinds of interaction and suggestions regarding budget and policy decisions that we make. You are also correct that if people disagree with maintaining a piece of district property then they should email us or attend board meetings and give thoughtful reasons as to why we should or should not proceed with that type of proposal. Get involved Park City. Share your thoughts. Be part of the leadership of the district. That is the way forward. Please Park City don’t get angry after the fact and use threats and intimidation to attempt to get your way when you don’t like a decision.
We as a board are not perfect. We never claim to be. We are parents, your neighbors, your teachers etc. We are not professional politicians and anyone who is elected after we are gone will be the same. Please help us by being there during the decisions and giving your opinions as they are being made. This is especially important as we enter the final stages of master planning and we as a community want the bond to be successful. If we have another bond failure it isn’t the board or the superintendent who loses it’s the community’s children.
Thanks, Andrew for the thoughtful reply. In my opinion, this is how public discourse should happen. You didn’t call me an idiot or use derogatory language on topics which we disagree– which is common in today’s world. You said, “I’d suggest an alternative.” That’s perfect and I appreciate it. It’s likely that we agree on 95% of things. Alternatives are something we can discuss.
One area of disagreement is likely on methods of change. I had said “Organize a Facebook group that says no more additional money for schools until the Super’s house is sold. PCSD’s Master Planning effort is going to end in a bond…” You said, “To suggest that hijacking a bond or voting out a volunteer board of parents and teachers who spend their time on behalf of the community’s children due to one line item in an 80 million dollar a year budget is frankly an immature and irresponsible suggestion.”
I get where you are coming from. However, from the other side, how someone has spent their money in the past is indicative of how they will spend it in the future. We as constituents have very few tools to surgically influence behavior. We have blunt instruments. We see a million dollars invested in a house for the Superintendent when we all found a way to live here, and we take umbrage. From many people’s view, it’s not equitable. According to utah.gov, the Supe’s 2019 total compensation (salary plus benefits) is $334,000.
That’s where the anger comes from.
That said, I like Ms. Gildea. In the few times I have met her, she seems great. She appears to be the perfect blend of intellectual and down-home that I at least want. If my 7 year-old met her, he would have a positive interaction — without a doubt.
Perhaps the district would tell me to hire that caliber of person we need to act crazy. That could be true. You may tell me it’s not crazy at all.
We probably have differing opinions.
I’ll email you and see if you have time for coffee. I’m sure I’ll learn something. It’s always more complicated than it seems.
I hope other people will do the same. Conversation is far better than throwing rocks.
Also I’m not 100 pct positive on the breakdown of the above compensation number but I believe over 100k of that is listed as a benefit of the housing provided.
That could be true. I looked up Dr. Conley as a reference since she would not have those variables. She was at about $260K (salary plus benefits). I think Superintendent Gildea has a higher base than Conley but the actual recurring benefit could be less than $340K.
But we are still talking about one of the highest compensated members of our community. Again, I like the Super. She is worth a high salary. However, I think the anger expressed is based on benefits provided to a person who is already making more than most.
I look forward to continuing the dialogue. Speak soon.
Andrew wrote This is the divisiveness that our community does not need. Did he forget the day recently when he used Klansmen to describe some in this community? The community writes and attends meetings but no one on the board listens. What if the community might not get behind the next bond? You wanted this job and ran a campaign for it. your constituents elected you, then you shut them out and closed your ears. No, violence is not the answer at all. Collaborative leadership maybe is.
No Rock. It was concocted.
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