Wednesday, September 25, 2013

To Vote or Not to Vote, That Was the Question

After deciding not to vote for officers in the Pennsylvania School Boards Association last week, the Pottstown School Board Monday re-considered that decision, musing over whether to "vote to not vote," or "vote to vote" or, as they did ultimately, just plain vote.

During the board's work session Thursday, several board members, School Board President Judyth Zahora chief among them, complained that the PSBA did not adequately represent the interests of struggling school boards anymore.

She and another other board members also complained that they did not know enough about the candidates and the short biographies available on the PSBA web site were not adequate to making an informed decisions.

School board member Ron Williams, who is the board's liaison with the state-wide lobbying organization, tried unsuccessfully to steer the board toward making a decision, all the while promising to convey their dissatisfaction to the organization, but he was unsuccessful.

On Monday night, he took another run at it with different results.

He pointed out that the incoming president of the  board, Rich Ferisch, is not only a Millersville University professor, but also a graduate of Pottstown High School.

But board member Amy Francis said she did not feel she the PSBA is in touch with the concerns of school boards and complained that the organization sends out too many newsletters.

"I don't want to get all that mail," she said, adding that the PSBA using mail rather than more modern means of communication is an indicator of "how out of touch they are."

School Board Vice President, Robert Hartman Jr., who was running Monday night's meeting in Zahora's absence, said he felt PSBA had "lost its clout" in Harrisburg.

Quite the contrary, Williams argued, pointing out that it was only through the late-night efforts of PSBA lobbyists that some of the more onerous provisions of a number of bills had been kept out of the final versions, those after meetings that went as far as the governor's mansion.

Further, Williams went on, not voting in the PSBA election in order to "send a message" also sends another message -- that not voting in elections is an acceptable method of communication and one which sets a bad example for the young adults the school board is charged with educating and turning into participating members of society.

"Well I don't believe in not voting, so maybe we should take a vote to not vote," said Francis.

School board member Thomas Hylton pointed out to the board that they regularly vote on hiring dozens of new employees they have not met and do so solely on the recommendation of the administration.

"Mr. Williams is our liaison with the PSBA and I don't have any trouble voting on a slate of candidates based on his recommendation," Hylton sad.

Williams was recommending the same slate of candidates PSBA is recommending.

According to the PSBA web site, "The Leadership Development Committee may, by majority vote, choose to endorse the nomination(s) of one or more candidates for any elected position as a means of identifying those candidates that the Leadership Development Committee considers to be highly qualified."
William LaCoff

Among those the leadership development committee considers to be "highly qualified," is William LaCoff, a longtime member of the Owen J. Roberts School Board, who is a candidate for "president elect."

Williams explained after the meeting that elections are held for positions which will be taken in the following year. So Ferisch, who will take over as president in the coming term, was actually elected to the post last year.

School board member Andrew Kefer said he would be willing to vote in the hopes that a PSBA representative "will come here and talk to us on the board."

In the end, Williams made a two-part motion; A) that the board vote in the election and, B) that it vote in favor of the candidates endorsed by the PSBA's leadership development committee.

After some muddled conversation, the motion was ultimately recorded by board secretary Linda Adams as a straight-up unanimous vote for the endorsed candidates.

This procedure for voting in PSBA elections is new.

According to the PSBA web site, elections used to occur at a conference in October, but are now being opened up to all school "entities" in the Commonwealth.

Wiliams said is part of PSBA's efforts to reach out and better communicate and interact with the boards it represents.

1 comment:

  1. Evan, I think this post is really valuable ... not only because it offers insight on how local municipal government works, but more importantly because it represents a classic tutorial on salesmanship. Mr. Williams, whom I don't know but commend, took PSBA - an entity that in the previous week was faceless - and in the following week made it seem like an old pal.The incoming president was a Pottstown grad. The president-elect candidate was an Owen J. board member. Who'da thunk?

    A terrific job of persuasion, and well-told. Thanks.