LETTER: Confronting mixed messages

To the editor:

As I looked over the election results for the recent MOISD millage I had many gut reactions but one thing I did not do is get angry with the voters.  I did not get angry mostly because I understand where the voters are coming from.

Another tax in the middle of a sluggish economy, come on.  No, even though all the schools could use this money to repair buildings, I figure a lot of the voters figure they could use it on their own home and household instead.

One emotion I did feel was embarrassment, but only briefly.

My embarrassment centered on the fact that my district, Reed City Area Public Schools (RCAPS) was the most resound “No” of the all at 2-to-1 against.  My embarrassment did not last though as I understand this much better now that I have been on the school board for almost two years.

The issue in RCAPS has been one of trust for many years and once again recent decisions by the board undermined that trust.

The main message our board has been trying to send to staff, faculty, administrators and the public has been one of: ‘everyone is going to have to sacrifice in order to get by’.  Under this message, we have privatized busing, laid off employees, re-negotiated contracts, etc. all in the name of cutting our budget to make ends meet.

Then in March, we raised administrators’ salaries (including the superintendent’s) and gave them free lunch.

The money involved is indeed almost trivial but it is the principle of the thing that counts with voters.  Why should they vote for a millage to fix up their school, when we seem to have enough money to pay the highest paid people in our school more money and give them free lunch that they obviously can afford?

I love my administrators, they are all great, hard working people, but the principle and message we were following got derailed.

We sent a mixed message; the public saw it and reacted.  While I don’t think it was the only factor in the recent millage’s defeat, it was a significant one.

For myself, I have had a long look in the mirror and have decided some changes are in order.  Perhaps, if I had been more vocal these issues things might be different.  I voted against these raises and the free lunch benefit, but I often wonder if a few more words might have persuaded others on the board to do the same.  Given the composition on the board, it might have been possible.

One thing is for sure, if we are going to rebuild public trust in RCAPS, these kinds of mixed message decisions need to stop or at least be confronted for what they are.

To the voters, I do pledge myself to work hard to rebuild that trust, even if it takes many years.

The education of our children depends on it.

Ed Raby, Sr.

Vice President of the Reed City School Board