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Problems? Board Should Be All Ears

Moments before Coeur d’Alene Trustee Tim Olson and two colleagues voted to muzzle a parents’ group Monday, he wondered aloud why the district had such trouble passing bond elections.

Amazing. How can he expect parents to support higher taxes when he and Trustees Wanda Quinn and Vern Newby won’t listen to them on curriculum issues?

The three tried - against board protocol - and ultimately failed to prevent Parents for Academic Excellence from making a 30-minute presentation criticizing the controversial whole-language program. In action correctly labeled by Chairman Ken Burchell as “an outrage and a disgrace,” they fought bitterly to limit each of three speakers to three minutes apiece.

Curiously, Burchell also stands accused of keeping two parents off an earlier agenda.

The bold attempt at censorship Monday goes to the heart of what’s wrong today with the nation’s school districts. Trustees are too willing to support administrators and questionable programs and not willing enough to listen to concerned parents who see their children struggling to learn the basics.

A refusal by school officials to listen to parents has fueled the booming private- and home-school movements. Also, it has fanned the distrust that many frustrated individuals have toward government today.

At the school level, unfortunately, that discontent translates into “no” votes on important levy and bond elections.

School administrators and their allies are masters at bedeviling parents who seek to be involved in their children’s schools beyond baking cookies for fund-raisers and selling tickets at sports events. Concerned parents who challenge district curriculum are marginalized, if possible, as conservative zealots or guided into some black-hole committee system.

As taxpayers and patrons, parents have a right to complain directly to their elected officials, bypassing the filter system of crafty administrators - about anything the district does or offers, from curriculum to lunch menus.

Any patron or group should be allowed on a meeting agenda simply by calling a board secretary.

Interestingly, the Coeur d’Alene School District soon will spend $5,000, raised from business donations, for a survey of district needs. The need for a new middle school and Coeur d’Alene High School improvements is documented. But the chances of passing a bond or plant facilities levy aren’t bright when patrons are stifled.

If a trustee doesn’t have half an hour to give to patrons with curriculum questions, he or she should resign and go back to tole painting.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board

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