Thursday, December 4, 2014

More of the Same

Good morning, class. Are we ready to discuss the assigned reading? Was there anything in the text that you found especially interesting?

Blair Ames wrote a comprehensive piece about new and returning members to the Board of Education. He quotes new member Christine O'Connor.

"The only thing I can do as an individual is listen and be very thoughtful in my decisions," O'Connor said. "I will do everything I can to facilitate proper teamwork."

It's a positive comment in a positive article that makes one hope for a new day on the Board of Education.

Tom Coale, on his blog, HoCoRising, is a little dubious about that. He respectfully points out that "...BoE politics continue to be some of the nastiest in our County and I don't see anything in the results that would change that."

Our stage is now set for the first board meeting after the election. We come to the election of officers. Returning Board member Dr. Janet Siddiqui is elected Chair. We may never know what turn of events caused Dr. Siddiqui to scuttle her plans to run for State Delegate (and consequently generate a lot of local ill-will by switching places on the ballot with her spouse) but I must say Chair of the Board of Education is a respectable consolation prize.

Next up, Vice-Chair. Ann De Lacy is nominated to serve in the position again. Cynthia Vaillancourt nominates Sandra French. The rest of the Board disallows the nomination because Ms. French is out of the country, therefore she hasn't been sworn in as a member of the Board. So she isn't eligible to be nominated for Vice-Chair.

The vote is 5-2 against, with new member Bess Altwerger voting with Ms. Vaillancourt.*

I just have to pause for a moment here. They couldn't even allow Sandra French, the longest-serving member of the Board of Education, to be a candidate for Vice-Chair because of a procedural point. They couldn't even allow it to come to a vote.

Why? Well, these sorts of things are usually arranged in advance, and this was clearly not in the scenario. More than that, if Sandra French's name had been permitted as a candidate, these same Board Members would have had to go on record as voting against Sandra French in order to accomplish what they had agreed to do--that is, to re-elect Ann De Lacy. And that just wouldn't look good.

Not so fast, says Cynthia Vaillancourt, and nominates herself for Vice-Chair. Well, that's easy. Sure, they can vote between those two names without making anyone uncomfortable.

The vote is 5-2 against, with new member Bess Altwerger voting with Ms. Vaillancourt.

In my opinion, these actions make it quite clear that these members of the board are not listening, not thinking, and not collaborating. If anyone thought the Board would get the message after Cynthia Vaillancourt was returned to the Board as the highest vote-getter, now is your time to be disappointed. Or outraged. Or disgusted.

This was a prime opportunity for "the powers that be" to show flexibility and civility. They squandered it.

As I have said before, I don't know Dr. Siddiqui at all. What I know now is that she has an opportunity to use her leadership to reach across the divisions on the board, shake up the entrenched positions, and set the tone for a Board of Education our community can be proud of.

If she does not, it's just going to be more of the same.




*I believe Ms. Vaillancourt also suggested postponing the vote until Mrs. French could be present. Also rejected.



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