Monday, April 10, 2006


You know, voters in the City of Omaha ousted former Mayor Mike Boyle because he threw butter patties at another politician at a dinner. I mean, it basically came down to that kind of stuff.
Now here we have the elected Board of Education of the Omaha Public Schools presiding over an absolute mess – the nasty war against neighboring suburban districts, the illegal secret strategy sessions, and most of all, the decades of outrageous black underachievement which has been mishandled in a series of expensive missteps by the administration the school board is supposed to direct.
Why shouldn’t they be recalled, too?
Take a look at a recall effort in Orange County, California, over a situation that’s nowhere near as damaging as what’s been going on in Omaha:

(Show 'n' Tell for Parents column, 4/10/06)

Can You Fire a School Board For Incompetence?

Q. Around the country, have there been any, or many, attempts to get rid of a school board that has presided over obvious overspending by the paid school staff, or obvious underachievement in the form of low or mediocre test scores?

One high-profile recall effort is going on in southern California, where a citizens’ group is attempting to get a recall of seven school-board members on the ballot. The school district is moving into a $35 million administration building in April 2006 and has announced plans to build a new high school for $120 million, three times the average for new California high schools.

Meanwhile, parents say, many children are squashed into portable classrooms in which the restrooms don’t work, and things are going to get worse because three grade schools are being closed. At one high school, there is no cafeteria, no auditorium and no school nurse.

They acknowledge that it is a fast-growing area and it is difficult to keep up with the population growth, but they contend that the school district administration and school board have botched management so badly that they need to be kicked out.

So in 2005, parents and taxpayers in the San Juan Capistrano Unified School District launched a petition drive to oust the seven school-board members, or “trustees.” Petition gatherers had some hoops to jump through, including having to obtain 20,400 signatures for each of the seven trustees to force a vote.

They obtained more than 177,000 signatures – but the county registrar invalidated 35% of them, so the effort fell short.

But the group, Capo for Better Representation, filed a lawsuit in April 2006 challenging the invalidations. They claimed that people had to sign the petitions seven times, and in haste their signatures declined in quality, so they might not have matched the voter registration signatures on file. In addition, many people registered to vote decades ago, so their current signatures in middle age or old age might not match their signatures of long ago, the group said.

In interviews with local media, the recallers say the school superintendent, whose compensation package totals $274,000, is arrogant to the point of being out of control. They saythe seven-member school board is just his rubber-stamp, noting that every vote over the past three years has been unanimous save one. They said the monopoly situation of the public schools has created ”reckless” spending patterns, immense wastes of resources and unacceptable inattention to the needs of parents and students.

They contended that the district spends its money on unnecessary things, and would be able to deal with overcrowding properly if its leaders focused on education rather than on bureaucracy-building.

The official recall notice served to each board member says: "You are recklessly spending tens of millions of dollars on an administration building and over $100 million for a single high school next to a dump -- while our schools are in dire need of repair and our students are crammed into substandard portable classrooms with non-functioning restrooms. Your reckless deficit spending has created a self-inflicted, multimillion-dollar budget crisis that puts our children at risk and resulted in massive program cutbacks -- severely diminishing the quality of education."

Interestingly, the lion’s share of the “defense funds” contributed to protect the existing school board members from ouster have come from land developers and contractors who have profited from the building projects.

Homework: You can read more about this battle on Orange County’s online newspaper,

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