I can't count the number of times, over the past six months, that I have heard some version of that familiar refrain, "It's all for the children," while covering the Robstown ISD Board of Trustees.
Board members love to pull that old chestnut out anytime they are about to take action: "Remember, we're all here for the children."
In the time I have been here, I have come to realize that I agree with them- everything they do IS for the children.
Unfortunately, the children I am talking about all serve on the Board of Trustees.
The bickering, pettiness and immaturity that I have witnessed from this school board has been far greater than anything I have seen from the students of the district these board members represent.
"It's all for the children." Sure it is.
A vote by the school board in its most recent meeting, Feb. 17, brought the second reorganization of that body in the past two months. They have now had three chairmen in that time. I'm sure students at San Pedro Elementary walked around campus the next day with a skip in their step and a song in their heart, knowing Important Changes had finally come. The truth is, it doesn't matter to the students of the district at all who the assistant board secretary is. It only matters to the children on the board.
One of the first actions taken by the board in the new year was another beauty designed to truly benefit the students of the district. The board gave specific instruction to the administration to allow new applicants for the position of school attorney. With no disrespect intended to John Bell, the district's current attorney, I think you would have to search long and hard to find even one student in the district who knew it had an attorney, much less who he was. And the result of the Important Action? One applicant- John Bell. Students at the high school probably high-fived each other in the hallways when they heard about how the board was looking after their interests in that matter.
Not enough? Let's get to my favorite example of how this board focused on the children. The last two meetings have ended with board members shouting at each other, the superintendent or members of the audience. Here's the part I like. While most board meetings are lightly attended by district employees, politicos pulling strings and the odd reporter (in my case, very odd), these two meetings were actually attended by those famous "children" we always hear so much about.
Students at those meetings who had showed up in support of Athletic Director Doug Wood (when was the last time you heard about students SUPPORTING a teacher?) were treated to a wonderful lesson in conflict resolution. Apparently, the way adults resolve conflict in the professional world is to yell at each other and storm away.
How about the flurry of letters from school board members heading north to TEA? They read like a child complaining to his mother.
"They said mean things about me."
"He didn't follow the rules."
"They won't let me play."
I'll be surprised if Mother TEA doesn't ground the whole bunch by the end of the year.
Two votes to reorganize the board, a vote to hire a new attorney and another vote to not hire the only attorney who applied, three meetings over an athletic director to decide that they really do support him- and how many votes to actually help the students? How many votes for things that will increase math and science TAKS scores, that will keep students from fleeing the district, that will increase the graduation rate? Not one.
Remember, in Robstown ISD it IS all about the children. Just not the right children.
Christopher Maher is the Managing Editor for the Nueces County Record Star. Readers may contact him at 387-4511.