Controversy should prod us to stay involved
Controversies like the one that drew about 160 people to Monday night's school board meeting are never pleasant.
The McCook Public Schools board of education's action in appointing a replacement for Greg Larson was enough to bring out people in droves. The decision to rescind Gary Power's appointment to the board means the controversy is likely to continue for at least a few weeks more, until a new board member is seated.
That's too bad. As several at the Junior High lunchroom meeting pointed out, the school board -- in fact the entire school system -- is all about the kids. Anything that distracts from the school's primary mission of preparing children to be productive citizens is certainly not desirable.
But it is good to see so many people concerned about their school system, and it is good to see them take time out of their evening to take part in the decision-making process.
Perhaps the fact that crowds are rare at school board meetings is a good sign. That means that most of us are satisfied with the job the school board does most of the time.
Conversely -- and we trust that this isn't true -- low attendance might mean most of us just don't care until things get so bad that we have to pay attention.
One new factor that has to be considered is the feedback feature on the Gazette's Web page, which has generated lively discussion on each new school board story, as well as many other stories. Like never before, readers are able to respond to content of the stories, as well as the Gazette's interpretation of them (the newspaper is usually the only local media represented at school board, or city council, or county commissioner meetings).
We remind users of the site's admonition to be respectful and try to stay on topic, but readers who may have attended the same meetings are now free to provide their own interpretations of the proceedings online -- as they have always been able to do through radio call-in programs.
To their credit, all the speakers at Monday night's meeting tried to be considerate and objective, and seemed to understand the burden school board members carry.
While controversies are not pleasant, lack of controversy is also not a healthy sign for any public body. Conflict and compromise is what our system of government is all about.
Just as many were concerned about the voting procedure that selected an unpopular candidate for the board replacement, so all of us should be concerned about a board that is itimidated by administrators or educational "experts," rubber stamping actions for fear of creating a controversy.
Now that the board has rescinded a contentious vote, it's up to all of us to stay involved as the new selection process gets under way, encouraging board members, administrators, teachers and staff to do what's best for the kids.