Why We Asked About Busing

by Michael Boyink / mike@douglascountyherald.com

After our School Board Candidate Q&A ran last week, some readers wanted to know why we asked the questions we did.

Let me back up. 

We weren’t even 100% sure we were going to do another candidate Q&A.

Why?

Because, historically, it doesn’t matter what questions we ask. There are always candidates who ignore the provided questions, then go on to say whatever they want to say. They basically use our Q&A request to get a free political ad.

But, knowing that, we did one anyway.

Because we felt a duty to.

Take the attendees of an average school board meeting. Remove the school staff. Remove any “Board Spotlight” recipients. Take the board members out of the room. Clear out anyone contracting with the schools for any reason.

Who’s left?

A KKOZ employee and a Douglas County Herald employee.

The media.

Faithfully performing our duty of keeping an eye on our elected officials. The people handling your hard-earned tax dollars.

We go to every board meeting. We watch the issues. We watch the votes. We compare what board members say vs. what they do.

A Facebook commenter asked “Why is the paper consumed with buses?”

Personally? I’m so tired of writing about buses I could spit. 

But professionally, we have to keep writing about busing because busing continues to divide the School Board. 

It’s virtually the only issue that causes a split vote. 

It’s the only issue (that we know of) that is causing legal actions between the School Board and the Bus Route Owner’s Association.

That Facebook commenter went on to say “Are we still fighting over buses nearly 10 years later? This is nuts!

We agree.

It is nuts.

But the fight continues because the School Board has allowed it to. Some board members vote against the current busing system but don’t explain why.

We believe publicly-elected officials making decisions with public money should be able to explain their votes. 

In public.

Especially if that money is being spent on lawyers.

Hence, our busing-related questions for School Board Candidates.

Another reader question was: “Why wouldn’t the Herald ask how board members voted on topics regarding students?”

Did you notice, in their Q&A responses, that two incumbents mentioned a dyslexia program that they were proud of having helped bring to the school?

Did you notice it was from two years ago and from a different committee?

The dyslexia program was reported to School Board, but it wasn’t researched, voted on and approved by School Board.

Because – other than hiring & firing teachers (which all happens in closed session) – the School Board rarely votes on issues that are so close to students.

This past week’s agenda for board voting is typical:

  • Approval of Bank Bids
  • Approval of Asbestos Removal in Elementary
  • Approval of Elementary Secure Main Entry
  • Approval of Handbook Changes for 2020-2010 School Year

Other votable issues have included school facility upgrades, vehicle purchases, approving different contracts and contractors, setting a school calendar, setting lunch/milk pricing, etc.

Important issues, yes. And issues that indirectly impact students, yes.

But not directly. Not curriculum. Not awards programs. Not discipline. Or remedies for drugs, bullying,  racism, or pregnancies.

The board may hear reports from school administrators or staff that include updates on these issues, but all they do is vote to approve receipt of the report.

So we asked about busing. 

But we didn’t end there. We also gave candidates the chance to show what other improvements they wanted to bring to the table.

You are welcome to review the Ava School Board video recordings on YouTube and advise us of any specific issues you feel we have under-represented.

You are also welcome to join us at School Board meetings. That way, you can come to your own conclusions, based on what you see and hear for yourself.

Let me know.

I’ll save you a seat.