A reminder by parents of accountability - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

A reminder by parents of accountability

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Posted: Tuesday, August 9, 2005 5:47 am | Updated: 7:39 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

"Why did you hit your husband with the skillet?" the judge asked the housewife.

"Because I couldn’t find the rolling pin," she answered.

Since parents can’t legally clobber Rae Waters on the noggin with a blunt object, they have settled on another approach.

Waters is president of the Kyrene Elementary School District Governing Board in Tempe. A grass-roots effort to remove her from the board seems likely to result in a recall election in March.

At the heart of the effort was a decision the board reached four months ago to reduce the amount of instruction time for music, art, foreign language and physical education in favor of a heavier emphasis on reading, writing and math. The change was passed by a 3-2 vote. Waters voted for the change, and art, music and P.E. lovers have been calling for her scalp ever since.

McKell Kenney, a parent in the district and one of the leading proponents of the recall effort, said parents have consistently voiced their objections throughout the process. The opposition to those changes didn’t end with the vote.

Kenney says her group has 7,000 of the 7,200 signatures required to put the recall issue before the voters. The petition deadline is Aug. 30.

Waters, now in the third year of her second four-year term, isn’t surprised.

"That’s what I’ve been hearing all along: ‘We’re going to recall you if you vote for the changes,’ " Waters said.

Kenney said the recall effort is not just a case of sour grapes, even though it’s hard to imagine the group would be pursuing a recall if the vote had gone the other way.

"It’s the process we’re objecting to now," she said. "But the outcome of the vote was affected by the process."

Kenney claims that Waters failed in her obligation to parents by being nonresponsive, a claim Waters strongly denies.

Since I don’t have a dog in this fight, it’s hard for me to say who’s in the right here.

On one hand, I agree with Waters when she says the recall might have a chilling effect on board members when they are compelled to make a difficult and, therefore, unpopular decision. It also seems a waste of taxpayer money to have a recall election in March when Waters’ term will end the following November.

On the other hand, I’ve had enough experience with school boards to know that they are often the ultimate insiders, aligned so closely with the district’s power structure that they are often hostile to the wishes of the parents who put them in office.

So in that sense, a recall could be considered a timely reminder to whom school board members are accountable.

Ultimately, parents do hold the hammer.

Or the skillet or rolling pin or recall petition.

That’s not necessarily a bad message to deliver.

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