Thursday, September 09, 2004

Democracy N Action

As I sit writing these words I await the meeting of the Lee's Summit R7 School Board.

I am gradually being surrounded by Lefties.

There is a tizzy over President Bush's campaign rally that was held here Tuesday Morning at LSHS.

I can hardly be deem im-partial in this little row.

A. I am obviously political. In fact, this year, as I have written, I am Political (capital P) and am actively campaigning for at least one candidate.

B. My daughter attends LS North High School. (Note: If anything, this is my only beef with the district. North SHOULD have been the location of the rally. Our kids had the highest MAPP scores. However, the track was under repair, and as the Bush campaign wanted an outside rally...)

C. I know the President of the School Board, Patti Buie, personally. She has been a family rind for years. Our children have attended the school together every year but one. My oldest daughter attended a different school for KinderGarten. Patti's son and daughter are one year older than my two daughters, respectively. I also attend church with the Buies. I also lead worship in song with her every Sunday.

And so, I was her Intelligence Agent throughout the day.

I caught wind of the protest letter, which SOMEHOW found it's way into the hands of the Kansas City Star. Apparently it was accompanied by a petition signed by 200 or so residents. (With a population of about 70,000, that would be rounded to .3%.) The letter and petition complained about the 'fairness' of having a (SHUDDER) Partisan Political Rally on school property and during school hours. The local morning drive-time talk-show host was taking calls on the subject. I did not count, but of the callers I heard all (at least 7) were in favor of holding the rally save one, the final caller, who had no real cogent argument, other than they hate Bush.

After arriving at work I the second hour of the talk-show that talks politics was devoted to the rally beef. Again, all were in favor save two callers. One was as incoherent as the earlier call-in. The other, who was also the last caller actually had some cogent arguments. I did not agree mind you, but he at least sounded reasonable, with reasoned points of contention.

I made contact with Patti by noon-time and filled her in on what had transpired, along with some points of contention that would be brought up.

There was one more local talk-show in the afternoon. As I expected, LSHS and the big Rally was the topic of discussion. I called Patti and alerted her to tune in. Chris Moreno, the instigator of the petition drive was a guest. He is a 24 year old political science at a nearby college and a graduate of LS schools. I must admit he had a very reasoned set of rhetoric on the subject. I could swear he was the same caller had made the same points during the earlier talk-show this morning. He stayed on-the-air and took several calls. Once again the callers were overwhelmingly pro-rally and thought the chance to see the President of the United States was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

And so, I am waiting for the meeting to begin. I decided at least ONE person in the room needed to NOT be angry at the board. I would call it moral support, but that would probably get me accused of implying the other side is im-moral... ;-)

I recognize one camera-crew is from the ABC affiliate, as the on-air personality is familiar. I can't identify the other. (Later viewing verifies it as the local FOX crew.)

The meeting begins.

First order of business an Agenda change.
Board policy stipulates that 5 days notice be given to be placed on the meeting agenda. There are a series of motions and seconds with discussion and votes to allow a single 5 min. max (per Board policy had the 5-day requirement been met) presentation.

(Aren't Robert's Rules of Order wonderful? When it come down to it, they are DESIGNED to force civility in meetings just like this. And believe me, when money is involved these kind of meetings can get contentious.)

You could almost feel the large crowd deflate as they realized they were not going to get to spend hours berating the subject.

Chris' speech was basically the same as his points on the radio during the day.

He had no objections to the President visiting per se, but felt it was wrong that the students were Subjected (his word) to a Partisan Political Campaign Rally.

Students at LSHS were allowed to opt-out of attendance by parental note and spend the time in study hall. The other two high-schools and the three middle schools were not given this choice but Forced (once again his word) to watch the rally on closed-circuit TV.

Some students were moved and had to stand as adults from as far away as St. Joe and Kansas were seated. His claim that these were campaign contributors.

Finally, he had anecdotal evidence of adults chewing on the kids for being anti-Bush.
(At this point, I feel that Chris' severe-but-still-reasonable-sounding searches of his thesaurus came up short. Having heard his rhetoric multiple times, on radio and live, I noticed a pattern. Each time he seemed to pick his words carefully to maximize Polarization. Chew? Hmmm... I actually think Chris' beef with the Board may go beyond politics. When quoting part the district vision statement to bolster his argument, (uniquely committed to the academic, physical, emotional and social well-being of ALL students. He referred to it as the vision statement the IMPOSED on the students. Does this sound normal to you? I should also add another Disclaimer:My wife worked on the committee that developed the mission and vision statements...)

He thinks the LS Board should:
1. Apologize in the small local paper.
2. Invite the Democrat Presidential candidate to hold a rally. (To be fair...)
3. Change policy to insure this travesty never occurs again.

In the end, a petition signed by less than one-half of one percent of the population of this city (the school district actually includes some other municipal areas) and precipitated by primarily by a single ex-student was used as a basis for a request to change district policy.

I think this sums up the Democrat Party. In attempting to keep everybody in their 'big-tent' happy, they end up compromising to the lowest-common-denominator.

Of course this sense of 'fairness' and 'balance' goes out the window when other subjects related to running school districts come to the forefront.

Ultimately, the kind of town-hall question-and-answer session that Mr. Moreno claims he expected are policy discussions. And policy discussions, especially during campaigns ARE PARTISAN. If Mr. Moreno was being intellectually honest, he would admit that it is the same message, different package.

And so, the students of LSHS had a chance to see Democracy in Action in the form of a full-tilt Presidental campaign. For those who cared at all, and did not just welcome the chance to get out of class (my own daughter's lament when the rally was not scheduled at her school) I doubt they were as scarred-for-life as Mr. Moreno contends.

And likewise, this is a political issues, with a political solution.

This is politics at the most intimate level.

This is where you can actually go and monitor your elected officials.

I attended, not just for my two friends on the board, but for all who serve.
This is a thankless job, with far more hassles than 'perks'.
This is pure public service.

To all the disgruntled people who are sitting in the room with me:

You want to change board policies?

Change the board.

Put up or shut up.


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