Letter to the Editor: Don't give the West Fargo School Board a blank check with vote
As the summer begins the citizens of the West Fargo school district are going to vote on the third school bond referendum in as many years. This is almost becoming an annual ritual in West Fargo.
I have read an email indicating that there are possible alternatives to building, such as renting from Fargo, increasing the class day, structuring the class day, as well as portable classrooms. However, these alternatives aren't being tried before they ask the West Fargo tax payers to pay more. Why not try alternatives? Why do public boards and public administrations always think tax, tax, tax, build, build, build as their first option?
Recently the 'pro' build side has come out full force trying to shame those who have an opposing viewpoint by labeling them as uncaring, not wanting to invest in the WF kids. They label them as not wanting the West Fargo children to succeed, that the WF children are falling behind, that we don't want the WF children to be educated, and not wanting our kids to be competitive. They label us as being selfish because we may not have kids, being close minded, being petty, etc. (all of which can be read in the May 4 article in the Forum). But nowhere in the same article did I see the 'no' voters resort to these tactics. Even Superintendent David Flowers stated at the April 27 session held at West Fargo High School that potential 'no' voters are misconstruing the information. To date, I have seen no statistics that any of this is happening to the students of West Fargo. These are all just scare tactics and meant to shame/ridicule people - I find those actions deplorable; debate the issue but leave out personal attacks.
To obtain a perspective on the issue, I attended school board informational sessions and even attended one of the listening sessions late last summer and early fall. At one session, a parent indicated how appalled she was when she took her daughter to the STEM center, and how the building looked in comparison to Cheney Middle School. This is a problem we have in our community. Too many people care about what a building looks like on the outside and not enough on what is being taught on the inside. We have become too materialistic of a society in the U.S. and I'm afraid to say there are many WF residents who think this way.
A common theme at the meetings I attended is that we don't need elaborate schools, but after hearing the response from Dr. Flowers on April 27, I'm afraid that this concern is falling on deaf ears. My main concern in this whole debate is, what I feel, the lack of honesty and transparency by the board members and the administration. During the meetings I attended, the term 'transparency' was used over and over, however I feel while that may be a good sound bite, the wording of the bond referendum leads me to conclude that a sound bite is all it is.
I encourage every voter of the West Fargo School district to carefully read the bond issue and then look at the documentation presented by the board/administration. In all meetings, news stories, etc., it says that a second elementary will be built when the projected numbers reach a specific number, but we don't know what that number is or how it will be determined and what is to stop the construction of the other building right now?
The wording in the bond referendum gives the school board/administration carte blanche to build right now or not build at all and use the money for other purposes, whether, it be now or in five, 10 or 20 years. When asked why the bond issue was worded this way, the school board president said on the 10 p.m., April 27 news that is was "to give the board flexibility." To me, that means the goal of the board is to remove the voices of the school district voters so they can do what they want.
In fact, even Dr. Flowers at the same April 27 meeting indicated that the wording of the bond issue allows them, flexibility. I suspect the bond issue was worded the way it was as an attempt to try to pull one over on the tax payers of WF.
The board/administration asks us trust them, but the wording of the bond issue indicates to me that they can't be trusted. What if the projections are wrong and the second elementary school is not needed? By wording the bond issue the way they did, they will have a blank check for $11 million which will go on forever and they can use it for whatever they want and, when questioned, they will say, "Well, you gave us the authority when you voted the way you did."
I, for one, think this was a deliberate attempt on the part of the board and, at the least to me, it showed a lack of respect and trust for the citizens. The wording could have been the same as what we heard in the listening sessions. Remember, trust works two ways and this shows me the board can't be trusted: they only want it their way.
People want the board to spend our money wisely and to involve the public in the decision process. By giving them a blank check they don't have to build the second school if the numbers aren't there, but they still have the authority to tax and assess the citizens at their whim by the way the bond is written.
Read the bond issue wording and if you are comfortable giving the school board a blank check that is your prerogative. I, for one, expect honesty and integrity from elected officials and I feel that the bond issues was deliberately worded the way it is to give them "flexibility."
If it passes, I will live with that, but I'm not willing to just sit by and remain silent when I feel the average citizens may be losing their voice - that is not how things work in the United States of America.
Barry D. Miller