Dear Editor – A Call for Civility and Respect: For the Future of Our Schools

Friends … Neighbors….Culver Citizens. Today, the future of our schools stands on the edge of a precipice.

Not because of any budget crisis – we’ve shown that we can be resourceful, creative, determined and tireless in finding ways to adapt and maintain the quality of our schools. Not for lack of dynamic leadership – parents and other community members are as involved as ever, and our administrative team is as strong as it’s been in years.

The danger is of our own making. We’ve allowed scores of people of good will; who at the core agree deeply about what we want for our schools, students and community; to build encampments on opposite sides of a growing divide, making it increasingly difficult for them to interact respectfully and with civility.

This danger rears its head during a heated campaign for school board seats, and a debate over the best ways to secure funding to repair and upgrade our schools. But it feels like it’s been festering for years.

It’s present in our sometimes condescending attitude toward those who thoughtfully, and based on the same information, reach conclusions that differ from our own.

It’s in our failure to take notice and speak up when others unfairly disparage individuals who care as deeply about the schools as we all do.

It’s in the way we brush off and attempt to diminish those who ask important and helpful questions that may not be so helpful to our pre-conceived notion of how everything should play out.

Somehow, way too many of our conversations have become about “Us vs. Them”.

It’s just politics, you might say. It’s not personal. But in a community as small and intertwined as ours, it can’t help but become personal.

Silently, it eats away at us and our ability to respect differences of approach. It erodes our ability to reach consensus that makes us all stronger.

And in the long run it threatens our ability to work together, with respect and civility, doing the heavy lifting required to keep our schools great.

So let’s stop the finger pointing and name calling. And let’s stop the whispering. Let’s become better listeners and better consensus builders.

Let’s all take a big step back from the edge, so that no matter what the future brings, we can leap forward together.

Tania Fleischer

Elaine Behnken

Shelly Blaisdell

Larry Weiner

Laura Carlson-Weiner

Michael Zucker

Jane Steinberg

Matt Seeberger

Bonnie Seeberger

Karen Hillsberg

Terry Silberman

Howard Behnken

Larry Berliner

Jon Barton

Sarah Dry

Susan Collins

Julie Bechtloff

Sotiris Tetradis

Todd Johnson

Triana Silton

www.culvercitysymphony.org

11 Comments

  1. I wholeheartedly agree.
    A good place to start would be to publicly disavow the slanderous yellow flyer against our Board President that is being circulated at various households and meetings by one individual. This flyer is a prime example of the divisive behavior you are describing.
    We should be able to have a discussion about the issues without vilifying people. School Board elections stir up debate for a reason. These issues are important for our children’s education and our community. But there is a difference between a debate in a democracy and personally slandering someone’s character and vowing to slander any person’s character that challenges their opinion. If you are handed one of these yellow flyers, I sincerely ask you put it in its proper place, the recycle bin.
    Don’t you agree?

  2. Scott,
    I respectfully submit that the yellow flyer
    comes as it has re: three board presidents ago,
    on the heels of a legal action involving the Board.
    To my knowledge one aggrieved party hands out these flyers.
    Ken B

  3. A call for civility must apply to all parties. It is interesting the UPCC leadership decides to speak up when Kathy is being attacked but, has engaged in relentless attacks against candidates who are not their’s and, those who endorse those candidates.
    A call for civility is an honest attempt to stop harmful and decisive attacks by all those involved. We cannot just condemn one attack but, should condemn and stop all attacks.

  4. As far as I know, the signatories to the original call for civility here are not UPCC leaders. I may be wrong about that, but I know most of them from various youth arts programs around the city.

    AS far as the yellow flyer, it has not been delivered to my house, but I gather that it is from a parent who has been attacking specific school board members for a couple of years because of special education issues. It is unfortunate that school board members do not get to defend themselves against the specifics of such attacks because of confidentiality laws. Perhaps instead they can point to specific of things that they have done to benefit the special education program and students as a whole in the district so that the discussion becomes about the progress of special education in CCUSD rather than a disagreement about one child.

  5. Actually one of the above signatories is on the UPCC Representative Council. I was unaware the call for civility was specifically directed towards UPCC as the letter, which I agree with, did not mention the organization by name. I know of no UPCC directed attack towards any school board member. If the signatories are referring to letters written online, I would suggest that the writers were speaking their personal opinion, not UPCC positions.

    No one can control what an individual community member writes in a blog any more than one can control the individual passing out the yellow flyer. But I would suggest there is a grave difference between debating an issue on a blog and borderline stalking the School Board President. There is democracy and then there is bullying.

  6. As for civility, I am all for it. However, it is not a breach of civility to raise legitimate questions. It is a time-honored part of our democratic process to have a discussion of the facts and not to accept grand announcements without questioning their validity and value. I have always striven to present factual questions, then ask the reader to decide. That is how discourse should be in a civil society.

    Every school board election cycle the same “issue” comes up. There is no “us vs them” in the sense that we are all members of this community, many of us have students in the schools. The more that a schism is talked about does not make it any more real.

    Disagreeing with a candidate about the “facts” that they are presenting, or pointing out perhaps inadvertent misrepresentations are not “disparaging” behaviors. It is part of keeping the election process honest. It is appropriate to have an open inquiry into the bond issue, the summer projects, the union endorsements as they relate to representing the interests of a majority of teachers and staff, the capital expenditures, whether the district has a viable plan to address Common Core, the role of parent funding and many other issues facing our district.

    Personally I have never engaged in any disparaging or disrespectful behavior, finger pointing, or name calling. I will say when I disagree with someone or am confused by their actions. However, asking questions and discussing things are not uncivil, they are the epitome of civic duty.

  7. “We should be able to have a discussion about the issues without vilifying people. School Board elections stir up debate for a reason. These issues are important for our children’s education and our community. But there is a difference between a debate in a democracy and personally slandering someone’s character and vowing to slander any person’s character that challenges their opinion.”

    “There is democracy and then there is bullying.”

    Scott, I applaud these statements…I am only sorry this was not a philosophy that was embraced by you and other parents while we were going through the adjunct issue and I was the target of your animus.

  8. “It is appropriate to have an open inquiry into the bond issue, the summer projects, the union endorsements as they relate to representing the interests of a majority of teachers and staff, the capital expenditures, whether the district has a viable plan to address Common Core, the role of parent funding and many other issues facing our district.”

    “However, asking questions and discussing things are not uncivil, they are the epitome of civic duty.”

    Ms. Wallace,

    Then why weren’t these same beliefs applied to the questions the unions asked regarding the adjunct issue and the formation of the UPCC? Just curious, because we seem to be operating under a double standard in this regard.

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