In the past two years, the town has elected 4 new members to our 5-member school board:
Robyne Camp (elected 2009)
John Dawson (2009)
Bob Grados (2010)
Jim McCann (2010)
If you're interested in grass roots politics, it's worth reading these 4 candidates' "Answers to Forum Questions," because you'll notice that all 4 sound more alike than different: all 4 tell us they embrace academic excellence and accountability.
That is a far cry from the 2007 election, when we had 2 candidates who told the public: 'I don't know anything about education so I'll leave that to the experts, the people we've hired to run the schools.' That is very close to a direct quote.
In 2007, the 2 candidates who promised the public that, where academics and achievement were concerned, they would not provide independent oversight of the executive, defeated the 1 candidate who promised that he would.
This year, their terms up, they retired. Four candidates ran for their seats, 1 as a write-in; 3 of the 4, including both winners, ran on accountability platforms.
The main publicly-stated difference between the 2 winners (Grados & McCann) had to do with "politics," with Grados saying consistently throughout the campaign that he does not like politics, is not a politician, and has no "political agenda." In practice, this means he will vote to keep Math Trailblazers because the administration wants to keep Math Trailblazers. (scroll down)
So in truth, the 2 winners are divided on the question of whether parents and the broader public should have a voice in the education our children receive. However, I think the fact that both sounded like members of the reform camp is probably important.
opinion and fact
The Forum has been taking fire from the administration all year. During the Singapore Math meeting, our Interim Director of Curriculum and Instruction told the board that misinformation about Math Trailblazers was being spread around town. The foolishness making the rounds was the kind of thing, she said, that she once referred to as chatting "over the laundry lines in the back yard."
'But I can't call it that any more,' she said. (words to that effect)
In the last board meeting prior to the election, the Forum was openly denounced by the board president, one candidate (who told the audience that henceforth he would never again read the Forum), and one parent.
Post-election, Ed wrote the statement below in response to complaints by Grados supporters that the Forum is not "balanced":
It’s no secret that this list was created by people concerned about the leadership of our school district, aspects of its educational philosophy, budgetary issues, and a perceived unresponsiveness to community concerns. The list began, that is, as an agent of change. But it has always been open to all comers, and as the husband of the list’s co-founder, I know that essentially all posts are put through. The point of having moderators is not to establish any particular political line but to guard against vulgarity and ad hominem attacks and to prevent our inboxes from being overloaded with spam.
The Irvington Parents’ Forum is as “balanced” or unbalanced as its contributors make it. If we avoided controversy, it would become dull and unreadable. Ditto if all contributors did was state unadorned facts, genre: “The Irvington school district has an enrollment of approximately 1,800 students.”
Contributors express points of view, preferably with facts to back them up. That’s what democracy is all about—taking positions, attempting to support them, and trying to convince others that you’re right. And since we’re fortunate to live in a democracy, everyone is free to take issue (again preferably armed with appropriate evidence) with anything that anyone says.
So, the distinction between “facts” and “opinion” is a red herring. Facts mean very little unless framed by an argument, viewpoint, or philosophy. By the same token, opinions baldly stated and innocent of any factual evidence don’t do the speaker or writer much good. So, for example, if I state the fact that the United States entered World War II in December 1941, that’s not very interesting. But if I go on to opine that we should have gotten involved a year or 18 months earlier and that we didn’t because isolationism still reigned—then my statement, a combination of fact and opinion, becomes more interesting. Which doesn’t mean, of course, that it’s necessarily right. Someone might reasonably respond that the United States didn’t have the military capacity to intervene effectively in Europe in 1939 or 1940, and that even in early 1942, we were woefully unprepared.
It’s as a result of this kind of argument that knowledge advances, new policies are framed, political alliances established, reforms enacted, and the like. Here, at the local level, the Irvington Parents’ Forum clearly fulfills a need. Otherwise, it wouldn’t attract new members almost every day of the week. If you disagree with something that’s been posted—as I’m doing now—go ahead and post a response. The chances are that there will be a response to your response, but again, that’s the beauty and privilege of free speech, especially at the local level. To intervene effectively in the national discussion, it helps to have power, position, and money. Here on the Parents’ Forum, anyone can add her or his two cents for free.
As for the idea that contributors are somehow sacrificing our kids’ education on the altar of local politics, I disagree. We’re creating a dialogue whose goal is to make a good school district better, to give our students the best education we can provide. I’m glad “Kris10why” had a world-class education here in Irvington, but we’ve had posts from recent IHS grads who don’t feel the same way. And, for me, every student counts.
* Since October 5, 2006, to be exact.
endorsement (academic excellence)
endorsement (politics & community sentiment)
the Kumbaya statement