Newspaper Article Archive of
Imagine my surprise that after 19 years on the Mid-Prairie school board, perhaps 500 meetings and thousands of votes, I opened the The News and found myself called out on the editorial page for being the “1” on a 6-1 vote – a vote that mashed several issues into an up-or-down referendum on the superintendent’s contract extension.
According to the editorial, “The only disappointing aspect of the vote on May 14 is that it was not unanimous.”
In response to this public rebuke, all I can say is – thank you.
Thank you, to The News and all the media, including the Des Moines Register and the Cedar Rapids Gazette, for covering the issues and events of the past two months with clarity, accuracy and courage.
Your collective stories have been fair, your quotes have been accurate, and your readers finished your articles more informed than when they started.
Thank you for holding us, as public officials, accountable. Because of your work crucial conversations were held throughout the community and across kitchen tables. While consensus was not reached, it is impossible to argue that important issues were not fully and frankly explored.
As a result, school districts, libraries, and other public institutions across the state are better positioned to make sound policy and administrative decisions than before.
Thank you for reminding us of your essential role. Among the countless communications I received, a few blamed “the media” for the division that descended upon our district.
Not true; accurate stories, even when “negative,” are not fake news. They’re the definition of real journalism. You did your job with professionalism, and our district, community and state are the better for it – as are our students.
Was I the outlier in a 6-1 vote? Absolutely. And like newspapers, which do their best to capture the facts, my sense is that the final vote reasonably reflected the rift in our community, one we all have a responsibility to mend.
A 7-0 vote – in either direction – would have implied a unanimity that wasn’t present. A unified vote to extend the contract would have discounted legitimate concerns held by many, in our district and in Anita.
A similar straight ballot to end the contract would have denied the legacy of a remarkable career.
Like a newspaper article, a vote also tells a story, and a split decision probably gets it right.
Schools are educational institutions, and we’ve learned a lot these past two months – about the permanence and prevalence of scars from sexual exploitation, and about the difficulty fair-minded people have in distinguishing behaviors that are literally inexcusable from those that are not.
I hope that the past two months have also underscored the need for a free and vigorous press.
As newspaper readers, we may not like every story, and we may not agree with every editorial, but in a time of extreme financial pressures on newspapers and unpardonable political posturing from those who would seek to discredit the First Amendment itself, the media are more important than ever.
That sometimes seems like a minority opinion, but as The News noted, I’m OK with minority opinions.
To that end, and to my ink-stained friends in the media, I implore you to keep showing up to meetings, keep asking hard questions, keep writing tough editorials and keep the news in The News.