Editorial: Ava R-1 School Board and Bus Route Owners Association Compromise Hampered by Study, Mute Board Members

by Michael Boyink, News Editor / mike@douglascountyherald.com

I’m an Ava newb. I hadn’t even visited Ava before we decided to move here in late 2018.

I’d also never been to a school board meeting before arriving. We home schooled our two children and weren’t inclined to see how the public schools in our hometown were governed.

On the one hand, I’m probably missing parts of the story. Near as I can tell by some web and Facebook searches, the disconnect between Ava’s School Board and Bus Route Owners Association has been going on for at least four years – through several administrators, board members, and drivers.

On the other hand, without a history here and without any kids in the school system, I’m about as neutral of an observer as you might find. 

I thought I was coming in as compromise was being found. In January – just as I was starting to cover the Ava School Board meetings – the Bus Route Owners Association offered to fund half the costs of a transportation study, and the board voted 4-2 to fund the other half.

The hope was that a review by an independent contractor would lead to agreement and compromise.

The reality is that little has changed.

It appears the only outcome of the TransPar review of Ava’s busing situation is that the School Board and Bus Route Owners Association now have a common enemy.

Board members have taken issue with some of the report’s calculations. Route owners have taken issue with other numbers, assumptions, and comparisons. 

To be fair, the TransPar report does contain errors and inappropriate comparisons (specific issues can be found by viewing the video recordings of the School Board meetings on the Douglas County Herald’s YouTube channel at tinyurl.com/dchyoutube). 

TransPar has released two revisions of the report in an effort to resolve the issues, but neither party is yet happy with the results.

But, behind the comparisons, percentages, paved mileage rates, dirt mileage rates, bus age issues, route length issues and base rate issues there lurks a bigger factor in the standoff.

The majority of the current Ava School Board seemingly refuses to discuss the issue. 

During last Wednesday night’s informational-only meeting, only three board members (Deana Parsick, Dan Johnson, and Mark Henry) contributed anything meaningful. 

The other four had little or nothing to say. 

And that’s consistently been the case.

It got me curious. Is this how all school boards work? 

Do people really spend time and money campaigning for a school board seat, only to sit there mute, other than casting votes?

Why would anyone want to do that?

Some YouTube searches answered that. Watching other school boards in action, I see board members  talking, asking questions, and making comments during meetings. They make their position clear.

The problem with stone silence is that it gives opportunity for conjecture and rumors to start. Is there a hidden agenda? A hope for a completely revised busing system? A personal vendetta? 

Only the board members can say. 

Ava residents – the school board members are your voted-in representatives. They work for you. They should be able to explain their vote.

If your candidate is one of the silent majority, maybe contact them and ask why they remain silent?

In the meantime, since this is an opinion column, here’s mine.

Route owners. Board members.

Set aside the TransPar study. 

Yes, you spent money on it.

But – it was a means to an end. A way to find compromise. 

Now the discussion is getting lost in the weeds of percentages and comparisons. Staying on that path will only lead to another several months of discussion, debate, and emotional turmoil.

Route owners – come up with a raise number you can agree on (maybe what Deana Parsick proposed during the meeting). 

School Board members – vote the raise in. Or at least tell your constituents why you won’t.

And Ava community – hold your board members accountable for their actions.

The Ava School Board meets again tonight, September 19th. The Bus Route Owners are on the agenda. Maybe this is the meeting where compromise can (finally) be found. The open portion of the meeting begins at 6:30 and is open to the public.