School daze, school daze
Welcome to what, among newspaper staffers, is hell week — the one week each month when all five school boards in Marion County meet, almost always at the same time. To make Monday evenings even more enjoyable, Peabody’s city council typically meets at the same time, too.
For years, we’ve prided ourselves on being the only news organization that dutifully responds, month after month sending virtually our entire staff out to sit through hours of scintillating discussion, the bulk of which never makes it into our paper but probably could be assembled into a patentable cure for insomnia.
This week, only Goessel seemed to take a reportable action, deciding to buy a new bus.
Marion-Florence informally endorsed building a new press box, primarily to satisfy concerns by a local-access cable channel.
Peabody-Burns and Hillsboro discussed filling vacancies — one because a newly elected member resigned before taking office, the other because no one bothered to run in the first place and the winning write-in declined.
As of this writing, we still were waiting to hear for Centre, which gave us a break and moved its meeting to Tuesday. However, with a lettered consent agenda using up virtually the entire alphabet, we weren’t holding our breath.
The dullness of school board meetings is so pronounced that even a reporter from our competition, which rarely covers them, recently remarked how relatively untidy county commission meetings are in comparison.
Time was, schools were different. There wasn’t a common core that nearly every class had to be taught from. There weren’t federal and state regulations that seemed to govern every aspect, from lunch to algebra to the square footage of press boxes.
These days, extremely talented teachers have most of their choices made for them by subscription lesson plans from multinational corporations, and extremely talented superintendents are left to become little more than loophole seekers in a web of government funding with more attached strings than an epic marionette show.
Is it time to start rethinking the idea of having five separate districts, with five separate superintendents serving a population of less than a small corner of some metropolitan district? Although it may be a bad analogy these days, are local school districts a vestige of the days when we had separate road crews for each township?
The single largest personnel expenditure most of our five districts make is for an administrator to oversee the maze of regulation each faces. Would there be saving in combining some of these functions? Each district faces the same maze; why have five superintendents each separately trying to find a way through it?
Or is the real answer giving back to the schools the ability to uniquely tailor their offering to the unique communities they serve and taking advantage of the brainpower of school boards, school administrators, and schoolteachers to provide unique advantages that make our communities both stronger and special?
— ERIC MEYER