We were elected as trustees to make decisions that are best for our students, staff and community. Abandoning our responsibilities and giving them to voters is irresponsible and expensive. People are replacing Confederate symbols with symbols of unity across the South without elections. For example, when Republican Nikki Haley was Governor of South Carolina, she took down the Confederate flag without an election.
The Board of Trustees should not conduct the first reading of the resolution because it is full of holes and unknowns. The financial impact of the election is unknown. We have no presentation on the costs of the name change which are certainly much less than the cost of an election.
The resolution suggests that a private entity could fund a public election. This is completely unheard of. When do we allow private donors to fund elections in the United States?
The proposed date of the election is unknown. The proposed text of the ballot measure is unknown. Our district’s legal counsel is unable to be present tonight through no fault on his part.
I see no reason that we need to do a first reading of a resolution tonight. What’s the rush? This Board of Trustees has never discussed any aspect of the possible name change or considered all of the options available to us. We have not been presented with a petition to change the name of the district. No one has proposed a new district name. We have clear state law that states how a district name change is made. We also are 28 days from Election Day. Two of our current five Trustees, 40% of our board, are not running for re-election.
We need clear, deliberative, thoughtful process for our Board of Trustees discussions. Tonight is our first time this issue has been on our agenda. I have no idea why this resolution was prepared. I have no idea who asked our lawyer to create this resolution.
I’m also concerned that our annual board goals setting workshop set for September 25th was cancelled with no explanation and never rescheduled. This was an opportunity for the board to discuss in public whether we should work on this problem. We could have also heard public testimony.
I love and support this school district. So here is my suggestion for a path forward.
First, we need to take several deep mindful breaths and slow down. There are children and neighbors in our community who are feeling sad, angry, hurt and afraid today.
Second, the Board of Trustees needs to lead civil community discussions with trained facilitators and provide factual community education. It is the Board of Trustees responsibility to be inclusive, to welcome all students and their families regardless of the color of our skin or where they are from. It is the Board of Trustees responsibility to build community connectedness. It is the Board of Trustees responsibility to create safe spaces for our children, staff and neighbors to discuss their feelings and concerns.
We can do this together. We can come together as a community with the leadership of the Board of Trustees and our community.
Third, our community and the Board of Trustees must review all legal options available to us for a district name with our legal counsel present. Tonight’s presentation does not include all options. One striking example of a missing option is the possibility that the board organizing facilitated community discussions or a panel discussion with experts. Another clear option is to follow our board’s standard procedure for policy questions. We could ask our Superintendent to present us with a written plan about how to move forward. Another possibility is for the board to conduct an online opinion survey.
Fourth, our community and the Board of Trustees must review the all of the facts. There are historical facts about the origin of the Dixie School District’s name. We also need to review the 21 year history of this policy question. There are dozens of public documents regarding process, costs and board research to review from 1997-2018. Our community and this Board of Trustees must review all financial information and assess financial impact of our decisions before making them. There are also psychological and sociological studies on the impact of names on the wellbeing of children and adults.
After we take these steps, then the board should decide what it wants to do. Maybe a referendum is a viable solution to this policy question. But we only will know the answer after we review all of the possible options, discuss the facts and evidence as Trustees in open session, conduct public discussions and know the costs and benefits.