The City's Pulse Newsletter

Dear Newsletter Readers,

Below you will find the now monthly column I write for the Press. This time it addresses the accountability of our CdA School Board in their management of the district.

It's my firm belief that past behavior is the best predictor of future performance, and we know there are many problems the district has developed, some of which I point out in my column below. These occurred during the terms of the incumbents; they are responsible.

Now lets look at the challengers and what they have accomplished in their careers. Jim Purtee is a successful businessman who has retired early, at 58, because he can. He chose CdA because he and his family love it here. Jim's background includes more than three decades of managing employees, finances and customer service. He has done these things well or he would not be successfully retiring in this economy! Jim has a young daughter, ready to start into our school system and he is highly motivated to bring his knowledge to the School Board position.

Terri Seymour is a mom and a grandma. She has strong ties to the school district because two of her children are currently enrolled. Terri will bring business accounting experience to the School Board. She has held a key position in the Great Floors administrative office for years, coordinating payroll, taxes, benefits and personnel. Her expertise with budgets and money will help her ask the right questions when deciding the uses of our tax dollars to achieve the best education for our students.

One more quick thing: Jim and Terri are being labeled as "book burners" or "book ban supporters", which is horribly untrue. Some people opposing these two challengers have decided to throw out nasty labels so voters will not look at the issues. Neither Jim nor Terri are in favor of banning (or burning) books! They do, however, think that language used in the classroom should be decent; that words which are not allowed on television should not be used in the classroom.

More than anything else, my message to you is this: If you live in Zone 1 or Zone 3, (see the end of my column below for the specifics) please get out and vote tomorrow, Tuesday, May 19th, from 12:00 noon to 8:00pm. If you don't live in either of the zones, please call any family or friends who do, and remind them to use their vote.
Have a great week! ---Mary


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Our Bucks Stop There

It’s the School Board that’s in charge.  They are the bosses.  The School Board hires the superintendent, authorizes the budget, approves curricula and oversees the entire school district operation.  If there are problems with the district, the ultimate responsibility rests on the shoulders of the School Board members.

Well, there have been problems, and plenty of them.  Remember the 2002 levy we voters approved?  The bulk of the money was meant for the Lakes Middle School remodel that never happened.  Where was the School Board then?  Did they know?  If not, they should have, it was their job to know.

Or how about when more than $800,000 was paid to a local architect who made detailed construction plans for a brand new Lakes Middle School way too early in the process, before the levy was even up for a vote. He did the work, the money was paid and then the levy failed.  The administrative decision to do business this way verges on criminal, but the public didn’t know about the money until much later.  Where was the School Board?  Did they know?  If not, they should have, it was their job to know.

And what about our quality of education?  Test scores have been dropping, teachers are burdened with greater expectations, yet money and support are directed to upper level Administration rather than the classrooms where real education takes place.  The CdA school district has a much higher ratio of administrators to teachers than other districts in our area.  Where is the School Board on this issue?  They had to know: They hire the administrators.  But it’s their job to manage the balance better.  Much better.

The current School Board members are nice people.  They are community volunteers who have given tremendous energy to our district and care deeply about education.  But that’s not enough.  They have to be able to manage the large, sometimes unwieldy and politically charged environment of the district.  They must be willing to take a stand, ask probing questions and push for information.  They must accept responsibility and build public trust with honest, open communication on a regular basis.

Two of the school board seats are up for election this next Tuesday.  Not everyone in the district gets to vote, only people who live the the two areas represented by those seats.  I get to vote, do you?

You can vote if you live in Zone 1, which is east of 15th street or in Zone 3 which is west of Hwy 95, over to Atlas Rd.  There are many schools in each of these Zones, but you can only vote at Fernan Elementary in Zone 1 and at Ramsey Elementary in Zone 3.  Just to make it even harder and more confusing, the voting hours at these schools are Tuesday, May 19th, from only 12:00 noon to 8:00pm.  

All of these restrictions make it less likely that people will turn out to vote.  Guess who decides on the number of voting places and hours?  Yep, the School Board.

Incumbent School Board Chair Edie Brooks is being challenged by Jim Purtee in Zone 1 which is east of 15th street.  Incumbent Bill Hemenway is being challenged by Terri Seymour in Zone 3 between Hwy 95 and Atlas.  So, please, if you live in these areas,  get out and use your voice and your vote.  The quality of our childrens’ educations, as well as our tax dollars, land on the desks of those we choose, so choose wisely.

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Mary Souza has been a concerned citizen of CdA for over 20 years. She's a local small business owner, former P&Z Commissioner and wrote an opinion column in the CdA Press on local issues.  Her opinions are her own.

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