The Star-News

Civics for kids

Sat, Jan 18 2014 12:00 PM Posted By: Carlos R. Davalos

If the Sweetwater Union High School District governing board — what’s left of it anyway — really wants to educate students and prepare them for the real world, they ought to require juniors to attend a minimum of two board meetings. Only then will they get a glimpse of what lies in store for them should they choose to become engaged in civic affairs.

They’ll experience firsthand the messiness that is democracy as board members, superintendents and stakeholders verbally spar over which policies should be passed and how the public’s business is compromised in a room of diverging opinions and agendas.

Perhaps most importantly, juniors will live one of life’s greatest quandaries when they realize you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Take, for example, what happened during a special board meeting this week where the topic of discussion was how to fill a vacancy.

In December former board member Arlie Ricasa resigned her position after she pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor charge in a corruption case brought by the district attorney in 2012.

On Tuesday the public and the board were told by the school district’s attorney they had 60 days to appoint someone to serve the rest of Ricasa’s term this year. Sixty days from the time of Ricasa’s departure, meaning a new board member had to be appointed by Feb. 17.

But the problem is that the school board has a credibility issue. Three of the five members are under indictment in that same corruption case that felled Ricasa. Because the public trusts them about as much as they do a starving rat in a cheese case, there’s skepticism that a favorite candidate or two haven’t already been discussed and would be ushered into position.

Of course another option, one that is usually ideal, is to let the public decide who will serve on the school board for the remainder of the year. Take the power away from an allegedly corrupt board and vote. The sticking point is, however, a special election could cost the district as much as $1.5 million to elect someone who would, theoretically, only be on the job for a few months (unless of course that newbie is allowed to run as an incumbent).

Critics of that option say the district can’t afford to spend that kind of money on a special election. And they’re probably right, given reports of the district’s deficit.

But what do you do? Spend money to make the decision yourself or have people you don’t trust and who don’t trust each other make the decision for you?

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. It’s a life lesson brough to us by the men and women who are running the world kids call home. Have fun with that, kids.

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