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Letter to the Editor-Livingston

October 7, 2016
Northern-Sun Print
Dear Editor, Kudos to the new PART-TIME G-R school superintendent David Hill who finds time to submit his “news and views” articles to your publication. His communication keeps the total district up to date on what is new and happening in our school. As a G-R district taxpayer with no children in the system, I find these articles to be interesting and informative. I appreciate his efforts. In his August 26, 2016 article, David writes, “I want to make it perfectly clear: Gladbrook-Reinbeck can and will remain financially viable FOR MANY YEARS TO COME as long as there is a collective desire among the school board and school community to make this happen.” He also repeated this statement towards the end of his column. I attended the Sept. 20, 2016 G-R school board meeting when the board had a “window of opportunity” to heed their superintendents remarks and extend an olive branch to the far south of the district by appointing Linda Lowry to fill the ONE-YEAR board vacancy created by the departure of Eric Sieh. I went hopeful even though the “word on the street” Tuesday morning was that it was not going to happen. Linda, a very well qualified and experienced person (read her resume’ in the August 14, 2015 Northern Sun Print) OPENLY ran for the school board in the last election which was to fill four seats. She received 850 votes – the fifth highest number of votes. To me, this clearly indicates that she had the voter’s confidence and support. For this reason alone, Linda, in my mind, was obviously the most logical choice. I was surprised during selection discussions that no one made mention of her previous desire to serve on the G-R school board or of the election results. It was my impression from the comments I heard during the selection discussion that Linda was not selected for the reasons that; she was not as well informed on the district’s finances, she does not have children in the school system, and lastly her opinions might not always agree with those of the other board members making her not as easy to work with. I would like to address those three reasons. First: You will note from Linda’s resume’ that she holds a Bachelors and Masters degree in Business Administration. Not only did Linda run in the last school board election, she attended school board meetings prior to the election which included presentations by the district’s advisor Gary Sinclair so that she would be a knowledgeable first year member if elected. In my opinion, she would have had no trouble interpreting documents and quickly grasping the financial status of the district. I do not understand the board’s thinking that a year’s service on the dissolution committee gives an advantage to understanding the district’s finances. Second: Since when is it so important that every school board member have children in school? If there was no representation of parents among board members, I would agree that this would be a legitimate concern. However, the board make-up Tuesday night consisted of five of the six with children in school. If there is a concern here, I’d say it is the opposite – that the board is too over-represented with parents and does not represent all constituents of the taxpaying district. There have been good school board members who did not have children. One that comes to mind was the late Gerald Raum who served diligently and respectfully for nine years and, oh my goodness, was a bachelor farmer at the time! There needs to be balance. Linda would have provided a better balance. Third: Good boards should be well diversified and made up of individuals who represent a variety of educational levels, interests, life experiences, vocational knowledge and skills and differing points of view. This brings a variety to the table that can, and should, lead to spirited yet respectful discussions of various ideas. It is from listening to and evaluating a variety of points of view that good decisions are made. Board members Tuesday night seemed to feel instead they needed someone “who would work well with the board” or perhaps it was someone “ the board could work well with”. I apologize, Matt, that I cannot recall your exact words – but it doesn’t really matter. The translation is the same. I have heard people ask “why can’t the north end and the south end of the district get along?” I offer that the comments and decisions made by the G-R board Tuesday night during the selection of the new board member represents one more reason. The vote was 4 to 2 and with this vote “the window” of opportunity closed. With their decision the board also sent a message that they are not forward thinkers and are clearly not interested in building bridges. The message was punctuated by the earlier remark by Rod when he prefaced his introduction of a third candidate with “I do not have a dog in this fight.” Look closely. With the new appointment, the G-R district now has six out of seven board members who all fall within a certain age bracket, all who have children in school, and most likely will all think alike. This is not my definition of a well diversified school board that represents the demographics and the taxpayers of the entire district. Welcome to “THE CLUB”, Susie. Jean Livingston Gladbrook, Iowa


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