Sunday, March 2, 2003

Kentucky Politics


Kenton school board forgot where it was

map

Democracy got quite a workout on a cold Monday night last week in Northern Kentucky.

In Campbell County, democracy triumphed. In Kenton County, it was trampled.

There may not be any tougher gigs in the Commonwealth these days than running a school district or sitting on a school board. The state's lack of funding has left local education officials with impossibly difficult decisions about how to spend what continues to be a dwindling pot.

Campbell and Kenton County schools made hard choices last week on school closings, moves officials say were forced by finances.

In separate actions Monday, officials took different paths. Campbell County had considered closing A.J. Jolly Elementary School, but opted to keep it open until a new school can be built in the next couple of years. The Kenton County Board of Education, following a recommendation by Superintendent Dr. Susan Cook, voted unanimously to close two schools, Visalia Elementary School in rural Kenton County and another school, the district's alternative school for at-risk middle and high school students.

I do not profess to know all the intricacies of education funding, nor do I have a deep grasp of the financial situations facing these particular districts. If a school district has to close a school because it can no longer afford to keep it open, so be it.

But the Kenton County Board of Education and its administration mishandled the closing of the two schools when it came to dealing with students, parents and staff, who were understandably concerned.

In Campbell County, a well-informed, passionate group of parents and staff led by Principal Ann Painter did their homework about the district's finances, asked articulate questions, made their case to administrators, used some subtle political pressure and ultimately convinced the board to keep A.J. Jolly open.

In Kenton County, parents and staff did the same thing. But in the end, the board voted against their wishes while refusing to publicly debate or discuss the issue.

During the meeting at which the decisions to close the schools was made, parents were heard by the board, but their questions and concerns were not addressed.

Cook said all the questions had already been answered in written statements distributed in the community.

Cook told parents the board and administration was not going to have a "dialogue" at the meeting. And when the board voted, it did so with no discussion, no debate and no explanation of the decision.

Since when do public bodies make decisions that disrupt and change lives without talking about it to the people who are most affected? It's not supposed to happen, at least not in this country.

Cook and the board said all issues have been addressed, but parents in Visalia and students at Kenton Central posed questions about the district's finances that were met with stone-faced silence.

The Kenton County Board of Education and Cook think they made the right decisions. But they owe the public more of an explanation.

E-mail pcrowley@enquirer.com




TOP STORIES
Main Street for the Tristate
No ideal solutions
Trouble spots, mile by mile
Public meetings planned
Bright spot: Artimis
Boone justice center ready

IN THE TRISTATE
Students paying for snow days
Blacks donate organs less often
Dismissal of lawsuits against WCPO upheld
Rabbi, pastor see their friendship 'meant to be'
Obituary: Jacob E. Davis, Kroger Co. CEO
Tristate A.M. Report

ENQUIRER COLUMNISTS
SMITH AMOS: Kids and crime
BRONSON: The anti-Springer
PULFER: A veteran's tale
HOWARD: Some Good News
CROWLEY: Kentucky Politics

BUTLER, WARREN, CLERMONT
Disability agencies brace

OHIO BICENTENNIAL
Happy birthday, Ohio
Ohio's bicentennial events
New stamp to honor the Wrights' first flight
Ohio Moments

KENTUCKY
Ft. Thomas rally pushes school levy