Two out of three reporters have filed their stories; the only one missing is for our local weekly paper, which comes out a day before its publication date; that story should be available Wednesday next in print. The articles which are out, one in the Times Herald Record and the other in the Daily Freeman, didn't include my comments, so I will reproduce them here, with helpful links that I couldn't figure out how to include orally:
My comments this evening are focused on the Code of Conduct, and the "zero tolerance" policy that underlies it. The district's code of conduct in its present form makes it theoretically possible for a student to receive out-of-school suspension for using an iPod, and for a number of other offenses including serious ones like drug dealing and bullying.
In today's society, where almost all adults must work to keep their households afloat, OSS is more of a reward than a punishment, and should be reserved for those rare and extreme cases where keeping a child in school poses a danger. In fact, a few months ago a New Paltz high school student told me that yes, he has deliberately broken rules to earn himself a three-day vacation from school.
Instead of sending kids home where they will be unsupervised, I suggest we revamp the code of conduct to keep most student offenders in the building. There they can be supervised, and held accountable for their assignments. The district could even explore a community-service component, demanding that troublemakers give back to make up for their disruption. OSS is an abdication of responsibility which simply transfers a problem out the school's influence. It's one of the strongest reasons why the zero-tolerance policy is ineffective.
I would like to see these changes take place from the top down, starting with the Board itself. Many people in this room feel that Don Kerr should not be afforded the luxury of being deemed innocent until proven guilty. If the Board agrees with this position, then Mr. Kerr's punishment should send a strong message. Don't go easy on him - make him continue in the thankless job of Board President, and demand that he give back to this community by paying for all the necessary training out of his own pocket. After he's been President for a year, I have no doubt that Mr. Kerr will see the error of his ways.It was slightly tongue-in-cheek, but it was completely true. The Code of Conduct sucks, and needs a revamp as I've been saying for months (and will be getting one this year regardless). The President job also sucks, even when the man in the job doesn't have his own deeds haunting him. He has to set the agenda, run the meeting, and take it on the chin for every action the school does and does not take. There are two other members who have been President before, and three who according to past practice are unqualified because they have never served as VP or President. Neither Patrick Rausch nor Bob Rich wanted the job. That's because they know it's a beast and a half, and takes countless hours of unpaid time to do well. And that remark about the training? Well, Don's already paying for it out of his own pocket, because they didn't budget for it.
There was over an hour of public comment, and I can't fault either reporter for redacting my viewpoint, but there were other omissions that I think were more glaring:
- Justin Holmes and several others suggested that this is an opportunity to review our society's inconsistent messages about marijuana use. His partner Amanda Catherine Stauble probably did the best job of it, however; she explained how as a DARE graduate she watched as several friends discovered that pot isn't as bad as the program claims, and how those lies lead kids into falsely believing harder drugs are no big deal.
- David Dukler, former school board member, pointed out the biased editorial practices of the New Paltz Times regarding coverage of school board members and candidates. His comments did a much better job than I have of pointing out how rampant yellow journalism is in this community. Not a surprise that this was ignored; the Record took my inquiries into Edgar Rodriguez' lawsuit against the district and turned it into an article on Steve Greenfield, who wasn't even running. Gotta protect your own, right?
- There are rumblings of a time- and money-wasting legal action to get Don Kerr to resign. I say it's a waste because there's no legal recourse, period. If this was a concern, it should have been addressed when he ran for reelection. Public comment is appropriate, but please don't piddle away my tax dollars dragging this out any longer.
I would like to address Ed Burke specifically, since he does occasionally comment here. Folks referred to this as a "witch hunt" because there are people who are using this incident to attack Don, even though they don't particularly care about this issue. I don't believe that describes you, but please don't be naive. One of Don's most outspoken critics told me about his own pot use in the parking lot, and the room was packed with people who feel that removing Don from this position will help them keep their unreported cash rents in their pockets rather than paying their share for our kids' education. It is possible that there are people who agree with you for reasons other than those they state. It's Don's fault he gave them the ammunition, but that doesn't mean everyone has the kids' best interests at heart.
Note: per this blog's code of conduct I have attempted to contact each person named in this post. I have not yet obtained email addresses for Patrick Rausch, Bob Rich, or Ed Burke.