Reading the cryptic messages from the politburo at the Grandview school board has never been easy, they are normally stuffed with jargon and deflection of direct questions. I have a new email from Culp that contained more of the same, but if I’m reading it right, it doesn’t bode well for the GfG.
Three weeks have passed since the “Good for Grandview” facility review group made a public plea for the school administration to rethink plans for a $50 million new build at the middle school, along with renovations to the other buildings. A short article in the TVN contained some quotes from superintendent Culp in reaction to the group, but didn’t address any of the issues the GfG brought up on their website. Culp stuck to boilerplate phrases like “we are transparent” and “community-driven”, and said nothing about the issues of faults in the facility process, or answers to the questions of how this small community could support an unprecedented new tax burden for the new schools.
This was similar to the reaction from the board when they were asked about the break with consultant Harrison Planning Group, the board refused to answer questions from the press, and relied on meaningless jargon – as though they were too stunned to process or comment on what had happened.
Three weeks have now passed, I’m sure many phone calls between board members and administration staff have occurred, possibly even work done by outside consultants to formulate strategy for dealing with the GfG group. I have been sending multiple emails to all of the board members, asking them to respond with their own reaction to the statements that GfG made about the facility process, and the opposition the group has to the $50 million plan.
This is the reply I received:
“I am unaware of an opposition group. The group you referenced in your email has indicated that they are not an opposition group. As mentioned in my previous email response, we are excited about the community driven, transparent facility planning process that we have facilitated and our outlined next steps. We are looking forward to our community continuing to “join the conversation.” Andy Culp, superintendent
First, Culp doesn’t use the name of the group. I’m sure this is an intentional strategy, calling them by their name allows them legitimacy. I think the board is so mad that they are like a jilted lover who is refusing to allow “that persons” name to be spoken.
Second, via the borg mind meld, the board has decreed that the GfG is not in opposition to the plans for spending $50 million, because the GfG said they were not opposed to some level of spending. The board is sure that if the correct words are spoken, more money spent on public relations experts, more hands shaken and backs slapped, eventually everyone will agree with the board.
Why the GfG is needed
There is no reason for a large group of people to form a school facilities group, and get hundreds of names on a petition, if the problem was that there is a small difference in perception of a final number – say $40 million versus 50.
The founders of the GfG were sitting in the front row of all of the meetings, and came away with a feeling that they had not been listened to, and the general consensus of the people who attended the meetings was not in favor for the most expensive option. The were critical of the figures used by the administration, and the way the task force was kept closed, and how the surveys were used. The formation of the group is a big vote of no confidence in the board and the administration. This is a slap of reality for the school board, something that has never happened in the history of the school.
The board is not responding. At all. This is serious bad news for the school and the community.
Don’t hope for a change with new board members
I think the timing of the GfG public announcement was made so that the new board members would be approachable before they became part of the always unanimous board. It is the smart move, but it isn’t a sure move. The new board members were well aware that the school has been full steam ahead on new construction for years, and will be taking their seats shortly before the final vote.
I don’t know of any member of the Grandview school board that has ever been elected in order to shake things up. Quite the opposite, the board has always acted in unison, with no public conflict or even disagreement. There is no tradition, or social support, for a board member to stand up and say “stop, this is wrong, we need to rethink what we are doing”. No matter what reservations they have with the process or the numbers, the new board members are not going to throw themselves on the track in front of a moving train.
Start printing the yard signs
The board will vote for the $50 million plan. The GfG group will oppose the levy, and the levy will fail. I’m as sure about this as anything I have predicted while watching the politics of the city for the last 20 years.
The outcome after the failed levy is where the unknown begins.
Maybe the board will try a side step to an income tax, while still asking for the $50 million plan. That will fail too.
The worst outcome is the one that the GfG was founded to prevent – even more levy attempts by a board that has become convinced by the righteousness of their cause (and willing to punish the community that will not agree with them). Social groups will divide, into the “crazy tax maniacs” vs the “child haters”.
Eventually there will be a number that will be acceptable, but the carnage left after all the battles will be deep, and it will be long term.
Prove me wrong, school board members. Don’t let this happen.
Why this board needs to speak up
A new school board will take office in January 2018. Two new members, with no experience on the board in the past, will take their seats. When change like that happens, people tend to say, “well, that means there is a new beginning, lets give them a chance and allow them to find their way without the burden of having to speak about what happened in the past”.
Starting fresh can be a way to resolve conflict, but it also allows unresolved issues to be ignored. I don’t think the new board members are going to want to take any ownership of the faults in the facility review process. Unfortunately, the three board members who are at fault will take the new board as an opportunity to say “what’s past is past, doesn’t help to dwell on it, lets move on to something positive.”
The formation of the GfG group demands a reply from the board – there is no possibility of getting away with ignoring them, without leaving a gaping wound in the political fabric of the community. The members of this board – even if they have to act alone, with no approval from the rest of the members, need to face up to what has happened and speak out about what this board did wrong.
I don’t have much hope for that happening though. Too easy to say, “not my job”. And it will not be the job of the new board, somehow.
Task force members can speak out too
The facilities task force members were partially responsible for the failures of the facilities process. Unlike the school board, there is no tradition binding them to silence, the work has finished, the group has disbanded. Maybe one of the task force members will comment on what was happening in that closed group? Anyone have meeting notes to pass on?