For weeks now I’ve been struggling with a decision to get involved or not in a local school board election. I’ll be honest, I typically do not go out of my way to vote for local officials or parent organizations. Not because I don’t care, on the contrary, it’s because I oftentimes have a tendency to care too much and inevitably end up disappointed and disheartened. So I’ve pretty much taken the “I’d rather not know” approach to local issues and do my best to stay below the radar (unsuccessfully). Yet when I hear, see or read something I consider an injustice, I can’t help the fact that I really do care, especially if it will affect my children.
So here is my burden of late, there is currently a school board election in progress at my daughter’s high school and it’s become a very heated debate over the rights of parents’ voices to be heard in terms of curriculum and as always, financial concerns. Mind you, I have completely oversimplified the issues for the sake of explaining my point and there is so much more to this story but I want to stay on topic.
Currently in place is what I would consider a mostly “old guard” board consisting of 7 adults. I say old guard not in a disrespecting tone but just one of calling it as I see it type of thing. Of the 7 current board members, the “youngest” member has been serving for three years of a supposed four year term. The other current District 125. Of the 7, three candidates are running as a team and seeking to unseat three veteran incumbents. The other four candidates in the race for four seats on the Adlai E. Stevenson High School District 125 school board are running as a group as well and consist of three incumbents and one newcomer.years of service run from 9 years to 30 years consecutively. There are four seats coming up for re-election and 7 either trying to maintain office or become newly elected members of school board
What I find most ironic is that the majority of the current board members do not even have kids enrolled in Stevenson High School let alone in a school! This team of parents and grandparents apparently do such a stellar job of objectively being the voice of the community that to consider running against them is considered blasphemy and instantly wins you the privilege of being named an instigator, pot-stirrer and in this respect, a right-wing extremist. Not only are you immediately labeled as an over-zealous, loose cannon, troublemaker and certainly an outsider, but you, your kids, your family and loyal friends (and I use this term loosely) become targets for alienation, gossip and are basically ostracized from the community and let me tell you folks, it isn’t pretty. I don’t think it’s that the three candidates running as a team do not have a formidable community of support, on the contrary, I believe there are many parents that agree with their concerns. However, I think their supporters have allowed themselves to be intimidated by the other group’s very vocal, very connected and very aggressive support system. I would almost call it “bullying”. But in all honesty, who in their right mind would invite the inevitable grief and repercussions? It’s so much easier to turn the other cheek and not ruffle any feathers. Lord knows that our lives are already extremely taxed for time and is complicated enough. I can’t even imagine what compels people to run for Presidency and various local and federal offices. Two words come to mind, ?normalcy bias, but that’s a topic for a future post.
So yes, while the issues being raised are absolutely valid and important, I’m still trying to get past the fact that this board has been unchallenged for 18 years! That’s almost two decades! The old adage of “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke” is sadly both laughable and pathetic at the same time. And to knowingly, not to mention strategically, campaign against people with fresh or different ideas is shameful, plain wrong and extremely narrow-minded but then again this is Chicago politics only it’s in the NW suburbs. The incumbents and their supporters speak of believing in a “Culture of Learning-where all members recognize and appreciate the diversity in the school community, encourage mutual respect, and promote social awareness among all school stakeholders.” Certainly sounds noble and fair to me and yet their actions and the actions of their supporters scream something altogether different.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for each and every day my kids have been able to be part of the schools in our community. We’re originally fromand as many know; receiving a good education in Florida (let alone public) is few and far between. I’ve volunteered many hours at my kids’ school’s not out of obligation but because I genuinely respect and applaud the majority of the teachers’ time, effort and sincere concerns for my kids over the years. It’s the politics and the cliques that I can do without.
I’ll finish by sadly predicting that the fallout and divisiveness of this election will be ugly. And in the end, when the dust clears and the dirt settles, I’ll wonder yet again what lesson was learned and what good example was demonstrated all in the name of doing what is right for the kids.
I honestly haven’t taken sides and I’m not sure I want to, however, I do think that it’s important for each and every parent; especially those already involved; to be well informed and familiar with both sides. Support or “liking” an organization’s Facebook page rings hollow if you only take the time to listen to the voices around you. This campaign is generating a mob mentality so my question to the community is “are you independent thinkers”?
Sylvia – An SHS Parent