Recently, Jennie and I have been exchanging comments about speaking about current events, school policy, town political decisions and the like. I mentioned that I have some experience speaking at meetings, and that it wasn’t always good. I touched on this subject once, a long time ago, but I don’t think I spoke to it directly. I did mention that I attended a meeting of the School Superintendent’s Parent’s Advisory Committee – my wife urged me not to speak – I spoke, and within a year, I was on a double-digit list of committees.
You see, speaking isn’t the worst thing you can do at a public meeting. The worst think is agreeing to serve on a committee. You often hear people complain, “that guy always has something to say but never does anything.” That guy knows that if you agree to serve on a committee, you will be asked to serve on many, more committees. Current committee members are the seed corn of all future committees.
One of the committees I was serving on was an offshoot of the Strategic Planning Committee I was shanghaied into serving on. It was one of five or six sub-groups set up to help better define and perhaps implement the broader goals of the strategic plan. I no longer remember what our group’s task was. I do remember a passionate plea from the Superintendent to attend the School Board Budget meeting. I agreed.
That’s another of those worst things you can do, agree to something that hasn’t been fully explained. You see the “budget meeting” was a series of meetings, every Tuesday and Thursday during February.
In those eight meetings, the School Board heard representatives from the school administration and faculty describe every line item in the budget. Almost every one of those lines drew a complaint from at least one person who wanted the overall budget to be reduced. My role – if I was inclined – was to speak in favor of those items. If I did that, despite how many people spoke against the item, the board minutes would show “public opinion was mixed.”
Yes, that’s how political things work.
I spoke in response to all sorts of complaints. It wasn’t so much that I was passionate about the issue, but I was passionate about letting people with experience and a clear understanding of the facts make intelligent decisions.
The one issue that I was passionate about was the purchase of books for a Senior Advanced Literature class. The teacher had designed this class very carefully. Although the school operated on block scheduling, where most classes were 90-minute sessions during only one semester, his was a half-block 45-minute class that ran all year. His class was also during Period-8 – the last class of the day and seniors could go home if they didn’t have a Period-7 or 8 class. In other words, the kids had to want to take this class. Our daughter would one day be one of those kids.
I don’t remember the specific titles, but the woman challenging the budget item thought the “mature content” of the books was inappropriate for students. I knew the teacher from some other committee I was serving on, so I looked at the woman and said:
“I don’t know where you received your master’s degrees in education and literature, but I know where Mr. Smith received his. I think we should let him decide.”
This post is part of Linda G. Hill’s fun weekly series One-Liner Wednesday. If you have a one-liner, I’d encourage you to join in on the fun. You can follow this link to participate and to see the one-liners from the other participants.