EDITORIAL: School Board serves public, not board

2013-09-09T00:00:00Z 2013-09-14T23:37:03Z EDITORIAL: School Board serves public, not board nwitimes.com
September 09, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Lansing Elementary District 158 is once again in the position of replacing a board member. This time, it should do the voters' bidding instead of propping up the board majority.

School Board member Jerry Kern resigned last month, leaving it to the School Board to decide on a replacement.

Board President Robert Wood wants to appoint a minority — all six current board members are white — with children attending school in the district. Only two board members have children attending school in the district.

Wood specifically mentioned former board member Brian Stewart as an ideal candidate.

Board member Anthony Arens believes the board should look to the previous election for guidance.

There were seven candidates for four open seats. Wood, Jeffry Kiester, Suzanne Long and Chuck Taylor won. Stewart came in seventh — the voter's last choice.

"It's time for the democratic process to prevail," Arens said. "We work for the taxpayer and the voter."

That's the very point the board needs to remember.

In May 2011 and May 2012, the board appointed new members to vacant positions. Stewart was appointed in May 2012. Arens made the same argument each time but was ignored.

There's value in discussing whether, as Wood said, selecting board members at large gives adequate representation of minorities. Board members could be elected by district rather than at-large, or perhaps a combination of the two.

But the need for a straightforward process that takes the voters' wishes into account when vacancies occur must not be ignored.

Wood said a special meeting will be held Wednesday for prospective board members to make their case for appointment.

"We anticipate making a decision in closed session and then coming out and voting afterwards," Wood said.

Um, hello? Decisions aren't supposed to be made in closed sessions. That's why votes are held in public sessions. Discussions on certain subjects are permissible by law, but not decision-making.

This is supposed to be a public process. Voters in District 158 should remember that in the next election, along with whether their wishes are ignored whenever a board vacancy occurs.

The District 158 board should go with the voters' wishes rather than picking someone the board members themselves prefer. And do so in an open, transparent process.

The district exists to serve the residents, not the board members.

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