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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Board of Education Decorum

Recent actions evidenced by those casting ballots in Bennington, Vermont have been reaffirming. The results of the latest budget and Board of Education vote reveal support for the financial map outlined for the district, and a firm, collective voice for a new direction for the School Board.

Three incumbents were swept from their roles in a clear mandate that welcomed replacements with distinctly different perspectives. Together with an individual who was running unopposed to complete the remainder of the term of a member who had resigned several months ago, and these three new members, the majority of the seven member Board will be new to their positions. The fact that there were seven candidates seeking the three seats on the Board up for election was indicative of the toxic turmoil that had prevailed for too long at Board meetings. The people have spoken, and they want a re-orientation for the governing body that represent them.

The former Board was dysfunctional and entangled in a spider web of personalities that were either too strong or too weak. A casual observer at these meetings would leave thinking that the two most vocal members, strident in their opinions that were sprinkled about with impunity, were actually the Chair and Vice Chair of the group. Rather, it these formal leadership roles were actually in the hands of two well-mannered but docile members who sat by and acquiesced to the dominant pair that operated on a belief that whomever spoke loudest and longest would control the day. This was perhaps the most defining characteristic of the Board.

Members of the district's staff or public who did not share the views and beliefs of the two domineering Board representatives were often victimized by a condescending, or worse, a vitriolic dismissal in the form of a rant or rave, often accompanied by eye-rolling, finger wagging gestures of disdain.

Ah, but one person opted to adopt a firm stand and methodically articulated evidence of the hypocrisy of the Board's two primary mouthpieces, exposing them as bullies who assume that the speaker who expresses themselves the longest and the loudest prevails. The resistor's presentation was deliberate and delivered in a soft spoken tone before a large, supportive audience that had anxiously awaited such a rebuke of the pair of autocrats. He highlighted major points of the irreconcilable differences between his values and beliefs, and those of the most vocal board members. In addition, he faulted the Board for not delegating responsibility for instruction to the superintendent, follow appropriate policies (most notably, the district's anti-bullying policy, and the restriction that prohibits responding to questions at Board meetings that were not agenda related) of governance, Two separate standing ovations punctuated his speech, but quickly turned to gasps when he revealed his intent to resign his position at the conclusion of the school year.

Within weeks, the annual voting occurred and the community displaced three incumbents.

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