(PHOTO: Bob Zahm at a joint Board of Ed and City Council meeting in 2010.)
By Guest Columnist Bob Zahm
As that semi-famous West Coast philosopher Rodney King said, “Can we all just get along? Can we stop making it, making it horrible…? After participating in the Rye City School Board of Ed’s bond feedback session Tuesday night, 26th March, I find myself asking the same question.
Whether or not you support the failed bond, you should feel comfortable expressing your thoughts publicly. Tuesday night, the first speaker expressed indignation and leveled personal criticisms at Rye residents (Peter Jovanovich, Ted Dunn, and Peter Larr) each with long track records of community service. The criticisms seemed intended to scare off anyone who dares to express alternatives to the failed bond. While many of the other speakers were constructive, the atmosphere was not quite the inclusive, open environment many want for our schools and community.
All Rye residents are my neighbors in so far as we all have a common interest in the city’s infrastructure, ordinances, schools, and civil behavior. But when your neighbor, parent of your child’s classmate or teammate, etc., is afraid to openly speak their minds, we all lose. Worse, our kids learn that it’s okay to shun people, or attack them in semi-private e-mails or closed Facebook groups, simply for having an opinion. We seem to be missing an opportunity to teach our kids an important lesson about the importance of collaboration, compromise, and civility.
Tuesday evening, I felt comfortable speaking about ways to make a Better Bond because I believe we need bonded spending for our schools and because there are many ways to improve the proposed spending. Others also seek a Better Bond, but opt not to set themselves up to be attacked for their views. Frankly, when personal, such attacks speak more about the attackers than the targets.
I am hopeful that the School Board comes up with a Better Bond. Our schools, our kids, and our community have real needs. I hope that the Board does not rush to get in a second vote before the public is sufficiently informed and in agreement on the Better Bond. But mostly I hope that all of our neighbors will treat each other with sufficient respect that no one fears contributing to the conversation.