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Letters Published in March 19, 2008 Issue
Mar. 19, 2008 - Letter submitted by Steve Dalton, CAB School Board candidate, Greensboro Township
American history has done an excellent job of teaching us one important fact about government and our elected officials: It's usually not facts that bring you down, it's the cover up afterwards. Think about how many government and industry scandals that brought prideful and arrogant people to their knees. Trying to "spin" the facts and details seldom works, because sooner or later, the American people figure it out and get it right. From Watergate to Cattle-gate and beyond, our elected officials spin first and apologize only as a last resort. In my opinion, what they don't recognize is that the American people have a very large capacity to forgive. Many of these scandals would never have been "-gates" if someone had stepped up to the microphone (without any props, as we saw with Governor Spitzer dragging his wife and family up to the microphone for a second helping of humiliation) and simply said, "I'm sorry, I'm human, I screwed up and I'd like to humbly apologize." Easier said than done, I realize, but I'd sure appreciate it once in awhile.
In our own community, on a much smaller but no less insulting scale, we see the same thing. Cover-ups, redacting and legal posturing seem to have become second nature for our school board. In many cases where citizens and taxpayers have made legitimate requests, it appears that our board's initial reaction has been duck, cover, spin and redact. Should the current board wonder why people are generally distrustful or resentful? Were significant decisions made behind closed doors or in redacted e-mails? Yes. Why do we have to sign up in advance to simply ask our board a question? Again, learn from history. It's not the facts that cause the problem, it's the concealment and cover-up.
Let me be very specific. At a meeting on Feb. 12, CAB School Board member Kevin Knott restated his position that he believes he is entitled, as an elected official, to see CAB public records that he has not been allowed to review except in the censored, redacted form in which they were previously given to The Banner. Mike Fruth, board president, responded with the following quote: "I think it's important for board members to realize that board members have no individual rights." He went on to say that "if the board chooses to review those records, then the board can do that. …" In other words, if the board says that Kevin can't do legitimate research, then he can't do it. What I hear is, "Run for school board, do as we say and keep your mouth shut." With all due respect, Mr. Fruth, that is absurd. It's hogwash, pure and simple. Board members are taxpayers and citizens, and they absolutely have "individual rights," and to suggest otherwise is wrong, period. I also believe my opponent in the May 6 school board election, Debi Ware, and I disagree strongly on this point. If becoming a member of the school board meant that I couldn't look at financial records unless the board told me I could, I wouldn't be running. And I assure you I'm running.
Lastly, I want to make it clear that I'm not running to "dig up dirt" or embarrass prior administrations. I'm running to make this school corporation better. I've been running an investment firm for almost 20 years. I'm qualified to review the financial records of the school corporation and I'm in the process of doing that now. I'll make public the results of that review over the coming weeks. For example, I'm sure there are perfectly legitimate reasons why our school lunch program was tens of thousands of dollars in the red. I've reviewed prior years' audits of our school corporation's finances, and I can tell you that our history of financial record keeping was very sloppy. Keeping accurate bank balances, for example, is not an unreasonable expectation.
Are things getting better? In all fairness, I believe they absolutely are. I've spoken with David Bundy, CAB's business manager, on two occasions and I believe that he's doing a very good job of cleaning up the financial mess that he inherited. Did the existing board, including Mike Fruth and Debi Ware, let this go on during their watch? I believe they did. Is there more work to do? I'm sure there is.
I'm here to offer solutions, not just point out problems. Anyone can do that; it's called "complaining" and it doesn't fix anything. Can we save money in our school system? Absolutely. Can we save money by firing teachers and cutting back programs? Absolutely not. We've done that, and to no one's surprise, it didn't work. You don't cut programs and scrimp on teachers and aides. That just hurts our kids. Can we economize and make our school administration more efficient? I believe we can, and almost everyone I've talked to believes the same thing. When I finish my review of the last five years' budgets and administrative payroll records, I'll offer recommendations and solutions, and I'll make them public. Then we'll let the people of Knightstown and surrounding communities decide.
Apr. 30, 2008 - Letter submitted by Joe Mueller, Knightstown
With this being an election year, we hear the word change a lot. And, yes, we do need a change in Washington, and there's a few that should be sent to jail for their actions.
Knightstown has a lot to be proud of, and some things not to be proud of. Last fall's town council election was just great. The town's people stood up and, through their votes, let their voices be heard. Together, we got rid of a "good old boy" system and got three good new board members - something we should all be proud of.
One thing we're not all very proud of is the Charles A. Beard School Board. That can all change, however, on May 6, when voters get a chance to elect four new school board members.
Last fall, school board member Kevin Knott asked to see a few of CAB's public records. Although the state's public access counselor has said that CAB doesn't have the right to keep Mr. Knott, an elected board member, from seeing the records, that is exactly what CAB has done. As I see it, there's probably only one reason why CAB and Mike Fruth, the school board president, don't want to let Mr. Knott see the records in question.
I think not allowing a school board member - an official elected to represent the citizens in the CAB district - to see school corporation records is against the law. If you or I break the law, we get arrested. Why hasn't the state police gotten involved in this? Why haven't the people responsible for not letting a school board member see CAB records had warrants issued against them? If they've broken the law, then they should be put in jail just like anyone else who breaks the law.
Why doesn't someone let the state police know what's going on here? Enough is enough - we need a big change.
Be sure to vote on May 6. Vote for change and vote out the people in office now. In the mean time, if they've broken the law, let's put them in jail. Then, maybe taxpayers will know the truth once and for all.
Mar. 19, 2008 - Letter submitted by Jennifer O'Connor, Animals in Entertainment Campaign Writer, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
It's gut-wrenching to imagine the terror, pain, and helplessness of the 50 animals who burned to death at the "Zoo to You" petting zoo earlier this week. Locked in cages and unable to escape, all they could do was watch the flames approach.
This tragedy illustrates the vulnerability of animals used to make a profit and the risks of viewing animals as inventory instead of individuals with preferences and emotions like fear and joy. Animals in petting zoos, many of whom are naturally shy and afraid of humans, suffer when they are constantly harassed by strangers. They are often roughly handled by excited children and can be targets for abuse from cruel people looking for an easy victim.
The survivors at this petting zoo deserve a safe home at a sanctuary where they can live out their lives in peace.
Mar. 19, 2008 - Letter submitted by Ronald E. Short, New Lisbon
The open meeting that the Charles A. Beard School Board held last week was very interesting. The open format that allowed response from one speaker to another and to and from the board members allowed the freest flow of ideas that I have seen in any board meeting that I have attended. The topic was the selection of a new superintendent.
The board is using the same body to supply applicants that they used in selecting the last superintendent. In light of the lemon that he turned out to be, is this a good idea? Given that the School Board is following the same path for selection, is it a good idea for the community to allow them to make another selection?
In regular meetings it has seemed to me that the board has chosen the guidelines for speakers that most suppress the exchange of ideas and discussion. I commented to another individual after the meeting last week that the openness was needed in regular meetings. The response, paraphrased, was. "Yeah, they were nicey-nice tonight because it is close to election."
You voters can change things, I hope, for the better. But with the low turnout of parents at these meetings, I fear the worst. I had never realized before how many delinquent parents there are in this community.
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