This is in response to the letter by school board member Lee Ann Wiseheart, which appeared twice last week in the Tribune. Mrs. Wiseheart’s commentary seems flawed by, among other things, an erroneous simplification of the issues in dispute. Responding in the order of her 4 numbered comments:
1. Nobody said mental health has nothing to do with school safety. The disagreement is over to what extent, how it should be addressed, who should bear the costs, and whether the proposed spending program is the best use of funding...especially while a major recession looms upon us. Opponents of this major hiring program are questioning why the physical safety of the facilities and our people is being relegated to such a distant second to social or emotional concerns? Let’s worry first about a weapon in someone’s backpack before addressing the chip on their shoulder. Ironically, even Mrs. Wiseheart acknowledges this by specifically referencing “including SROs” in her summation…because even she knows that a well-meaning social worker is not going to stop a bad guy with a gun.
2. This is not about paying “for another person’s child’s medical issues” in the traditional sense of the word. The referendum approved by Mrs. Wiseheart and her colleagues is focused primarily upon the emotional and/or psychological aspects, or mental health. Families with decent insurance can get help for their children via individualized attention from trained professionals...which should be the avenue of first resort rather than enacting a new or expanded program of socialized medicine.
Although we are reluctant to make sweeping unsubstantiated statements similar to Mrs. Wiseheart’s, it is important to remember that the issue and funding being debated is how best to ensure the safety of our school environment, not whether county taxpayers should underwrite prison reform or society’s efforts to prevent all crime in the future.
And let’s also give credit where it is due. NAFCS graduates benefit from a great school system and we believe are much less likely to engage in criminal behavior as adults than students at most other districts.
3. Mrs. Wiseheart’s claim of agreement or sympathy with objections to the district’s recent questionable spending practices rings hollow, extremely hollow, in light of her ardent support for every one of those questionable expenditures and practices...and which questions and objections she has essentially ignored and rejected. Now she admits those feelings are valid?...when it is far too late? Gee, thanks for nothing.
And it is more than a little disingenuous for her to claim that voters should not exercise their Democratic right to have a say in her spending preferences and decisions during the referendum that is being held for that very purpose! Her argument underscores the precise reason the funding laws were recently changed, i.e., the history of arbitrary (even arrogant) freewheeling tax-and-spend policies of Indiana’s school districts. Frustrated taxpayers are not, as she patronizingly phrased it, trying to “channel that frustration” of past misconduct by the administration or bad decisions by the board; we’re disputing their newest attempt to continue that trend. It is also interesting to note that Mrs. Wiseheart is apparently not running for another term. If so, her advice to surrender our Democratic rights (referendum) and focus instead on board elections rings even more hollow.
4. Her comments all but admit her abdication of her duties as an elected representative in preference to instead serve as a mere facilitator of the superintendent. Members are placed on a school board to consider employees’ and consultants’ advice along with a host of other factors, including their own research and the needs and desires of their constituents and the taxpayers…not simply to unquestionably follow the advice of those advisers. This also reveals her true disregard for the recent serious complaints about the practices and tactics of those same advisers…you know, the complaints and feelings she said are “100 percent valid.”
If you believe expanding socialized medicine is the way to go, then vote yes. If you want accountability and focused common sense spending of your tax dollars, vote No and make them return with a more reasonable approach.
Joseph Moore, Georgetown Twp.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The second publication of Wiseheart’s letter was done so in error.