At-large vs. status quo
Dear Baldwin USD 348 Patrons,
I attended the school board meeting Feb. 14 at Vinland Elementary School. The suggestion was brought before the board by two patrons to eliminate representation on the school board and have each of the board members be "at large" members. I listened to the arguments that we would have more unity and that it would eliminate any special interest problems.
What exactly was implied, unity on the board? I have sat in on many board meetings over the years; yes there is discussion and each individual has his point of view but isn't that what it's all about? With this diverse group of people we get opinions from each segment of our district, and isn't this what we are looking for? Were they referring to unity in the community? I am very involved with the community and I take pride in the fact that such a diverse population does work together so well. Each month I write the Booster Club newsletter for the district newsletter and part of my job is to thank people for their support and it overwhelms me that people are so supportive of our youth and schools. It is very apparent where our priorities are and that we are unified in this effort. As far as special interests, I truly believe that each board member takes the entire district's needs into consideration when making decisions.
Needless to say, people were very concerned over the thought of losing representation on the school board. The statement was made that fear was what people were acting on. I prefer to call it passion. People are very passionate about many things but three at the top of the list are 1. way of life, 2. their "voice," 3. their children.
We were told that if every member was an "at large" member there was a possibility of each of the seven members being from the Vinland area. This is not just a Vinland issue, or just a Marion Springs issue. I am sure the residents of Baldwin are equally passionate about having a voice on the board. We need representation from each of the three areas.
It was stated that Baldwin has 47 percent of the total population, where Vinland and Marion Springs each have 25-27 percent. Is Baldwin being cheated? What about property tax dollars? People in the rural areas own considerably more land and probably pay higher total taxes than the in-town people. Are the Vinland and Marion Springs people being cheated? I do not believe anyone is. Two representatives from each of the three areas seem to be fair.
With each seat being voted on separately it was inferred that we were unable to vote for the most qualified candidates when they are running against each other. What I see as qualifications maybe is different. Are we talking education? Are we talking qualified to represent the public? As I looked at our school board I saw a cross section of this district. We have carpenters (what an asset when construction is happening within the district), we have an insurance person (these type of issues are commonly seen) we have businessmen (the district needs this direction from their members), an educator and I could go on and on. My point is each takes their unique gifts to the table. This diversity is what gives us strength, therefore becoming united. In my opinion the most important qualifications for school board members is to take to the table the heart of the area that they represent. I want that person to be my spokesman, I want them to know what's happening in Vinland, I want them to be accountable to me as a representative of mine. We don't elect our board members to make all our decisions for us, we elect them to take our needs, wants, and opinions and make decisions based on us as a whole.
Curtis Trarbach is a representative for Vinland. He is a middle-class working parent with a child at Vinland and one at the high school. He is involved in the Vinland school and community. He sincerely cares about children, voices his opinion, is open and honest. He lives in rural Baldwin and understands the daily lives of the families in the Vinland area. He is accountable to us because he is our representative that is also a qualification. A few years back Ron Skaggs (not a Vinlandite) was our school board representative here at Vinland and because he became involved with the issues of Vinland by attending our PTO meetings and activities at our school and community during his term he was a good representative for us and we thank him for that. But without that accountability to Vinland will a school board member live among us (so to speak), walk in our shoes, truly represent us? I don't think so.
Maybe some people haven't liked the choice of candidates they had to vote for in the past. Maybe they have looked at the two running against each other and said, "I don't like either of these two, why can't I just chose the seven I like best?" Each area's needs are unique. If the area chooses to have one of these people represent them who are we to say no? We have seven people on the board to insure representation of all the community, I don't like everyone in this community and I don't agree with everyone in this community but I stand by their right to speak and be heard. The board is making decisions for the entire district, not just a select group. Let's listen to every voice. As Ed Schulte stated, every two years there are elections and choices can be made.
Think about this issue; what exactly is happening here? I don't want a politician from Wallace County making decisions for me here in Douglas County. They work with our representative here in Douglas County who bring to the table Douglas County issues, unite and make decisions for the state of Kansas. I don't want to lose that right, in Kansas or in my community. Do you?
One concerned patron in the Baldwin school district,