"God must love the common man, He made so many of them..." Abraham Lincoln

Monday, June 30, 2008

Curveball & Cupcakes

So that meeting didn't go like I thought it would. And my vote certainly didn't go like I thought it would.

Up until now, I've only chaired at two board meetings. One was simply to adopt policy and it lasted all of 13 minutes. Even though I've been on the board for three years now, I am relatively inexperienced at conducting meetings. However, the agenda for this meeting was straightforward with no surprises. One addition was made to allow the board an opportunity to discuss the budget before adopting it.

I had every intention of voting against the proposed budget. I've been very unhappy about the classroom layoffs while administration came through it all mostly intact. I knew I would be the minority but was okay with it because I had voted honestly.

Our budget discussion was thrown a big league curve ball when one board member stated he would vote no based on the lack of an art line item. I was completely stunned and unprepared for this scenario. Oregon school districts must, by law, approve a balanced budget by July 1 every year. Since we are now a board of four instead of the customary five, the vote was now a tie.

What a mess. What a complication. His no vote plus my no vote would cancel out the two yes votes, thereby putting an immediate halt to all district business. I had never once considered voting in favor of the budget and I do think a no vote because of layoffs trumps a no vote because of art supplies. But if I changed my vote, it would be a betrayal to the affected employees and families.

I changed my vote.

I extend my sincere apologies to all who supported me in my decision to vote no on the proposed budget and I hope you can understand and maybe even forgive me for my action. I am just sick about it. Not even cupcakes with frosting and sprinkles can fix this.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Musical Chairs

'Tis the season for board reorganization. Every July the school board members elect two of their own to serve as Chair and Vice Chair for the next 12 months.
This time around, the board will be reorganized more than usual because the Board Chair recently resigned for employment reasons. At the meeting to declare a board vacancy, there was a distinct undercurrent of what I call "gavel envy." Suddenly we were swimming with words like "experienced" and "parliamentary procedure" and "leadership" when the conversation's tide turned to Chair appointment. I'm not much of a swimmer, but I do know that undercurrents are dangerous.
Serving on the Board of our school district is an honor. It means being an advocate of what's best for our students, not what's best for personal agendas. No one should aspire to be a Chair. If it happens, it happens. But know there is no trophy, no perks to the appointment. The gavel isn't a scepter of power. It's a lightning rod of publicity.
So I have deeply pondered the dilemma and have had a stroke of gavel genius. Musical Chairs. Yep, that's right. A simple child's game is the best remedy for gavel envy. Just imagine the pictures and headlines... At every meeting the high school band could play a rousing rendition of the Lions fight song while we all jostle around for Chair and Vice Chair. Like I said -- genius!
Happy Board Reorganization!

Monday, June 16, 2008


Congratulations Class of 2008!
Just the other day, 24 years ago, I graduated from high school. Life beyond those hallways and classrooms was unimaginable -- and then suddenly there it was! The world was wide open! What a moment!
When I graduated I had only one goal -- to be famous. I imagined my future self as a top-notch award-winning correspondent for the National Geographic. In my daydreams I would travel far and wide from the freezing north to the sub-tropical south. With my trusty typewriter ever at the ready I would cover all topics from crumbling ancient ruins to the most modern technology. As a journalist and writer I would be responsible, insightful, and grammatically correct. And best of all? I would be the darling of all future class reunions what with all of my fantastic globe-trotting tales and kick-a$$ slide show. "And now this is me with the Gondola tribe of Venice. Notice their native dress..."
I must now admit that none of it has happened. I do read National Geographic. I do have my trusty typewriter. I do consider myself to be responsible, insightful, and grammatically correct. But globe-trotting tales with an accompanying slide show? Nope. Instead I have stories about all the people I've met. Instead I have pictures of my kids. It hasn't been the way I imagined -- it's been better.
It's such an honor to hand our St. Helens High School graduates their diplomas and send them on their way to their futures. I wonder where they will go, what they will do, and who they will meet. I wonder how they will influence society and change the world. I wonder when they will have slide shows ready...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Budget Bruises

After the last and final budget committee meeting for this year, I needed an ice bag. Two actually -- one for my head and one for my heart because both were bruised and hurting.

It's no secret that I am unhappy with next year's budget. Sigh. This is the first time since I've been on the board that it's been necessary to trim. Budgets and haircuts are a lot alike. Have you ever had a haircut you didn't like? "Trim it," you tell the stylist, "to even things out." The stylist, with all good intentions, ignores your request because he or she knows what's best. Oh sure, you get a trim alright -- but aren't one bit happy with the final look. That's me and the budget. A trim was required, requests were ignored, trimming happened, and in the end... Bad haircuts and bad budgets make me cry.

I can't help but be upset when the budget was balanced on the backs of our kindergarteners. I can't help but be upset when the budget was balanced on the sanity of our kindergarten teachers. I can't help but be upset when cuts are made to the classroom but not the administration. (with one exception) I can't help but be upset when creative options are casually dismissed. I can't help but be upset when financial cooperation doesn't happen.

So after some vigorous discussion and a split vote, the budget will now make its merry way to the board for approval. I will vote against it, but I know it's a moot point.

To any and all who are or will be adversely affected by district budget cuts, you have my most profound apologies.