School board finally allowing quality public discussions

ACHTUNG: This is not a “fair and balanced” story. It is an editorial by the editor.

Wayland Board of Education President Gary Wood rightfully described as “a good discussion” a public debate Monday night about an offer to join the early college program.

Board members indeed went back and forth and presented their arguments for and against Wayland participating in a three-year program to benefit as many as 10 local students, but at a cost. The assertions were respectful and its was refreshing to hear and see board members candidly present their views.

Such an exchange seemed to be frowned on and even verboten in days gone by. It was at the start of the 2013 year that former President Jeff Salisbury was stripped of his title in a nasty closed session because of his persistent opposition to the science wing addition to the high school.

Salisbury and his daughter, Shelly Salisbury Whitley, both were marginalized and isolated after they showed the temerity to vote their consciences against the project, insisting it might be an unnecessary expense. Both were accused behind the scenes of “not being team players,” a really offensive charge in a supposedly democratic society, where differences of opinion are respected rather than punished.

This publication editorialized more than once, and it still leaves the foul taste of the dark side of authoritarian boardsmanship.

So now, in the six years I have watched the proceedings of the Wayland Board of Education, I can say I’ve seen two very encouraging developments. One was the enlightening, candid and substantive discussion Monday night about early college. Two was the painful deliberations in May in response to the shattering defeat of two bond proposals, both by 2-to-1 margins.

It was Wood who came up with the proposal to eliminate the pool and a new elementary from the bond package and go with the middle school addition, new tennis court and repairs and renovations for Pine Street Elementary. The satisfactory results showed up at the polls last November.

Someone once said that “Democracy is an ongoing argument,” and it’s a healthy thing to let two different ideas or positions be presented to the public in public sessions. To insist that all members of a board be team players and fall in line is an anathema to freedom of speech and thought.

It wasn’t long ago that I had grown weary of the constant 7-0 votes and sometimes phony demonstrations of solidarity. However, I’ve since been encouraged by the two aforementioned discussions and I hope to see them again.

Kudos to the school board for its actions in the past nine months. Keep up the good work.

1 Comment

  • Back when the dinosaurs ruled and I had the privilege to serve on the Wayland Board of Ed (1990-95) there were a couple of issues that another board member and I disagreed with and we voted our consciences. Sensing our discomfort that we couldn’t follow the “party line,” the then superintendent told us that he welcomed articulate dissent, because it showed that the system works, that members could have civil disagreement and not appear to rubber-stamp each and every item that came in their agendas. Other board members (more seasoned than we) agreed. Civil disagreement breeds education, enlightenment, and participatory democracy. Nice to see its return.

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