Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Keith, It’s All About The Kids

When I was a lad in the 1950s, we used to play stickball at our local school yard. We weren’t exactly affluent—one kid would bring a Spaldeen (a high-bouncing pink rubber ball made by Spalding Company), one would bring a stickball bat (a specially made thicker-than-normal broomstick with tape wrapped around one end for a better grip). We all wanted to win, but we also had a basic sense of fairness. So, if the player who just struck out complained that he hadn’t been ready for the pitch we’d grant him a “do-over” in the spirit of justice and having a good time. Being kids, however, sometimes our urge to win prevailed over everything else and we’d forget about do-overs and we would argue about the rules or about whether a hit was fair or foul. Not infrequently we would get so caught up in the argument that one of us would simply leave the game and go home. Unless it was the kid who brought the bat or the Spaldeen, the rest of us kept playing. But, the way I remember, it wasn’t as much fun playing one person short.

These episodes of school yard athletics popped into my head this morning as I read Olympia Meola’s story in the TD about the School Board meeting yesterday. As I mentioned in my previous post there was this little skirmish between George Braxton and Keith West over who would chair the board for the next year. Of course, if I had been reading some of my fellow bloggers, I would have known that this was a major battle and that there were some pretty strong feelings about whether or not to keep Braxton for another year. Well, as the TD article pointed out, the board reelected George Braxton. And, to my great disappointment, Keith West acted like one of those kids from my youth. He announced to his colleagues that he just wasn’t going to play any more. He will not run for reelection to his board seat next year. More important, he will not work on implementing the board’s “New Direction,” which he did so much to bring into existence. Instead, Keith will spend his time trying to recruit candidates suitable to him to run for election to the board at November’s election.

Come on, Keith! Swallow your ego and get on with the job that 7th District voters elected you to do. Although I didn’t pay any attention to your election campaign (not living in your district), I don’t imagine that you won by promising your constituents that you would work hard for the children of the city but only if you got your way. Governing our schools is a task that the laws of the Commonwealth entrust to a board, not to an individual. As in any kind of governing body, it takes a majority to make a decision. This is one of those unfortunate facts about a republican form of government. It’s messy. It’s slow. A dictatorship is always more efficient. But, most of us think that a republic is the way to go.

Keith, this is not about you. This is not about George Braxton. It is about the children of Richmond. If you really care about them, finish the job you started. If New Direction was your baby, you need to stay around and nurture it and watch it grow. You can’t just take your Spaldeen and go home.


emma said...

Unfortunately, I live in KW's district and I have a rising 3rd grader and a rising 6th grader that attend RPS. I really need some one to turn to as I face middle school for my oldest.

What he has done is render himself, and his consituents, powerless. There is a right way and a wrong way to negotiate change. His arrogance now directly impacts me and I don't appreciate it.

I find his behavior immature and irresponsible. And, all the people I know that congratulate him on "taking a stand" do not actually have children in RPS and cannot know how damaging his actions were.

Anonymous said...

I congratulate West for "taking a stand" and I do have children attending the RPS. I agree that his reaction was immature, however, I understand how frustrating it must be for the few, who know what is right, to work within a system that merely covers up and protects itself instead of advocating for the students. The inactions of the school board and RPS administration are far more damaging. Atleast West's fit draws the much needed attention to the RPS system and board.