Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Monitor endorses school board candidates

Here are the endorsements: ["Our picks to serve on Concord's school board"].
No big surprises here at all. Glahn was going to get picked because he is a strong incumbent. Halvorsen is a bit of a surprise, considering that he seems to be staking out the more conservative positions. And Williams has earned a chance to serve because he has stayed connected.

Also, the Monitor has a story about a bill to change the way board members are elected: ["Bill would regionalize school board elections "].
I don't know how I feel about this. I guess I would be in favor of it. But I would like to see exactly how the regions would be carved up.


Anonymous said...

Tony do you actually support an autonomous schoolboard, with memebers elected at large with taxing powers?

Tony said...

Hi Anon350:

Thanks for reading.

First, Rep. Shurtleff isn't proposing to remove the autonomy of the school board - he is proposing to have the board elected by districts and not at-large. There is a difference.

Since none of us have seen the districts, we can't really pass judgment on the idea now can we? Conceptually, I don't think it is a bad idea. Running at large is cumbersome. The campaign for school board is also too short - essentially two months. So, the campaign mostly comes down to name recognition and the Concord Monitor's endorsements - not voters getting to meet candidates and talking about our children and schools.

As an aside, I would like to see the registration for candidate deadline shifted to June instead of September so that residents actually had a chance to meet the candidates and talk to them about school issues over the summer instead of this annual mad dash. It would not be unlike the opportunity we have had with the state representative, Senate, and even presidential candidates.

If you want to talk about the school board's taxing powers, that's another issue entirely. There are both negatives and positives. Ideally, the school board shouldn't be autonomous. There should be a set tax rate annually - say the cost of living index, like the tax cap language suggests - and the city, schools, and county should live within whatever that rate is. I would also support a mechanism by which the city, school, and county, went before the voters to raise that levy limit temporarily for capital projects such as school construction, library, etc., not unlike debt exclusions under Prop. 2 1/2 in Massachusetts.

The problem as I see it is that if the school board doesn't have budgeting or taxing power, who will do it for them? The city manager, mayor and city council. All nice folks individually. But collectively, they make some of the worst decisions I have ever seen [I call it consensusitis].

So, if you're asking me if I support the current conditions instead of giving the council control over the school budget, Yes, I do, with reservations and the option of changing my mind when more reforms are forwarded. But give control of the school money to the city council? No friggin' way.

Anonymous said...

What about the buying of houses, without our knowledge.

Anonymous said...

To begin with the city council wants no part of conrolling the school board b udget. But there has to be more transparency so the taaxpayer kows exaactly how the school board is spending the money. Why should we spend to bus kids to Pat's Peak for ski lessons when many of the kids cant afford skis. I woulld favor a closer look at how much money is spent on each school, is it fairly distributed and why were the Walker school lines changed so more kids ended up at Kimball. There are a lot of quesstions
that are not being answered. I dont object to my tax dollar going for a tip-top education for our kids so they can compete with kids from other countries
but concentration on new buildings is not the way to go.

Anonymous said...

Is it not unethical for the Concord Newspaper to recommend who we should vote for, I am wondering if it is infact illegal.

Tony said...

Quick points:

Anon849: There was nothing illegal with the board buying houses around Kimball School when they became available for sale. The open records law is very specific about what elected and appointed boards can do in secret. They can negotiate for and acquire property without the public's knowledge.
Was it smart? Eh, no. They bought at the height of the market and paid more than what those houses are worth. But there isn't anything illegal about it.

Anon1055: The board is doing nothing to keep the budget from the public. You can go to the hearings, watch them on TV, and read the limited coverage in the newspaper [staffing meetings is difficult at newspapers these days ... trust me on this one]. If the public is that concerned about the budget process, they need to make the extra effort to keep track of the process. You could argue that the board could do a better job of educating the public about budget issues. That's a given with any elected or appointed body. But giving the school budgeting to the city manager, mayor, and council to control? No, that would be a mistake at this time.

Anon1244: It is not illegal for a newspaper - or any other media outlet - to endorse candidates. There are no laws about this. Newspapers are not regulated by any legal function. Television and radio stations are not even that regulated anymore. Is it unethical? No, it isn't. Newspapers have been endorsing candidates and opining on issues for hundreds of years.

Thanks for reading!!

Anonymous said...

I would have to disagree with you Tony. Let us see the Concord Monitor ran the debates, then backed a candidate.

I think that there must be collusion somewhere.

Tony said...

Anon751 wrote:

Let us see the Concord Monitor ran the debates, then backed a candidate. I think that there must be collusion somewhere.

Well, not exactly. The forum was set up by the Dewey/Kimball PTO, as they have done for at least the past four years. A Monitor editorialist was asked by this org to moderate the forum, as he did last year. I moderated the same forum in 2005 and 2006. So, technically, the Monitor didn't run the forum - they assisted with the forum and were asked to do so.

Should a Monitor editorialist moderate such an important forum if they also plan on endorsing? That's not for me to say but it is a worthy question to ask. At least, by being there, he had two opportunities to hear from the candidates - one in a live presentation and one in an editorial roundtable. I know that both times I moderated the forums, I had a better idea of who to vote for. I'm sure he had a better idea of who to endorse.

Was he influential in how the forum proceeded? I don't know, I still haven't seen it on television. But I haven't heard any complaints from other attendees or any of the candidates so I would question any accusation of "collusion." That seems like a malicious thing to say where there is absolutely no proof of collusion at all.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Anonymous said...

What about the perceived level of independence?

Tony said...

Huh? "Independence"? In the mainstream press? At the Monitor? What newspaper have you been reading?!?

Anonymous said...

I believe very strongly, that the press has a obligation to present facts in an independent manner. Especially since, Concord Monitor is the only in town newspaper.

Tony said...

I agree. But they have every right to opine on their editorial page - you know, where the opinions are - just as much as anyone.