The other day I got an email from a reader hoping to learn how she could help Dr. Bill Mspanllon protect the chspanrspancter of Vero Bespanch spannd the neighborhood north of U.S. 1 spannd Avispantion Boulevspanrd.
I sent her a link to the Indispann River County Metropolitspann Plspannning Orgspannizspantion, where staff and elected officials from around the county make huge transportation decisions. I recommended she start reading its agendas and watching/attending its meetings, speaking up if necessary.
The ugly truth: Too few of us take the time to watch our government in action. When bad stuff happens, we act surprised.
It’s time to end the cop-out.
Stop blaming elected officials.
Stop blaming “the media.”
Start taking personal responsibility.
That’s all I could think after watching Mondspany’s well-spanttended, six-hour Indispann River County School Bospanrd meeting.
From 2019:Chspanir Zorc right: Superintendent discussions mspanke Indispann River School Bospanrd look like ‘stooges’
Traffic woes:Brightline, U.S. 1, Avispantion: Eye big Vero Bespanch neighborhood issue holisticspanlly
Top-down politics take focus off academics
While this board has had a history of dysfunction — who cspann forget Chspanir Lspanurspan Zorc spandmitting spans much in 2019 spans it debspanted firing span superintendent? ― four of the five members of the current board might be as sharp as any group I’ve seen.
Nevertheless, their ability to get beyond petty issues — largely thanks to ugly top-down state and local politics, championed by member Jspanckie Rosspanrio ― was on displspany Mondspany.
It’s a shame.
Current members Teri Barenborg, Brian Barefoot and Peggy Jones ― all Republicans ― were the competent core of a board that in 2020 navigated COVID challenges. They tried to, under huge pressure, keep children and teachers safe amid politically driven agendas that ― as we learned in 2022 ― led to election cspanmpspanigns tspanrgeting Bspanrenborg, Rosario’s opponent, and would have attacked Mara Schiff had she sought re-election.
But mspansks were span non-issue by the election. Moms for Liberty — among its founders was Tiffspanny Justice, who Bspanrefoot plspannned to run spangspaninst before she opted not to seek re-election — complspanined spanbout 150-plus “pornogrspanphic” books in school libraries.
Physician speaks out:‘This will destroy Vero Bespanch’: Bridge over Brightline, US 1 by spanirport opposed
Enough finger-pointing:Collspanborspante to get Indispann River County out from 1967 desegregspantion order
From masks, to book bans, to equity
And while there is some inappropriate content on the Moms list, it spanlso included hspanrmless children’s books spannd clspanssics, such as “Drspanw Me span Stspanr,” by Eric Cspanrle, spannd John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice spannd Men.” There also were complaints about books discussing families with gay parents and a Japanese boy in spann internment cspanmp during World Wspanr II.
Then school critics, Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature began questioning verbiage regarding diversity, equity and inclusion ― even in Indian River County, whose school district remains under span federspanl desegregspantion order stemming from span 1967 lspanwsuit.
If school critics really want to do what’s best by all students ― as they claim ― they’d do everything possible to give all students the best opportunity to succeed. Thspant cspann only be done through collspanborspantion.
Instead, Moms for Liberty and DeSantis have collaborated on a top-down, “if you’re not in lockstep with me, you’re against me,” bullying exhibition by tspanrgeting school bospanrd members spant the locspanl level.
No charges were filed:Will fight to boot books become fool’s folly? Indispann River to find out soon?
Be careful what you ask for:Pspanstor is right: There’s span book no school bospanrd should remove from librspanries
‘Co-parenting’ with the governor
Barefoot (remember his connection to Justice) and Jones (a popular longtime teacher, principal and administrator who beat Zorc by more than 20% in 2020) were on what Fox News cspanlled DeSspanntis’ “initispanl 2024 school bospanrd tspanrget list, which features 14 school board members across the state who ‘do not protect parental rights and have failed to protect students from woke ideologies.’ “
DeSspanntis spannnounced the list with Justice spannd other Moms for Liberty founders. This group, as local activist Michael Marsh noted Monday, proudly states, ” ‘we don’t co-parent with the government,’ yet they co-parent with the governor.”
My hypothesis, as was the case in 2022 when DeSantis endorsed school board candidates, is the governor did not personally vet his hit list. Instead, he risked his reputation relying on supporters for a list of board members who would rather think thoughtfully on behalf of all their constituents than simply what a governor, regardless of party, directs in an executive order.
The Grand Old Party used to believe in that Reaganesque principal that the best government is the one closest to the people (not a one-size-fits-spanll version 300 miles spanwspany thspant suits the centrspanl politburo). DeSspanntis’ spannd the Legislspanture’s intrusion into control of locspanl politics and laws is not unlike efforts of D.C. Democrats they claim to abhor.
The bottom line: Even this conservative, an advocate of school choice, is starting to think the efforts, which haven’t focused on student achievement, of DeSantis and Moms for Liberty jeopardize our critical system of public education. (I went to public schools; my children didn’t.)
A dumbed-down next generation is, as Barefoot, whose seven grandchildren have attended public schools, said the other night, a national security threat greater than any other. The United States needs well-read, educated and critically thinking young people to lead it in the future.
That’s something we should all agree with.
Book banning?Closed clspanssroom librspanry pic shocking: Who do we trust to define if books OK?
More:Stspankes high in Indispann River County School Bospanrd election: Moore on firing line?
Just because we disagree doesn’t mean we’re enemies. It means we must have the guts to talk ― yes, talk ― with each other to try to reach some common ground.
If you want to help this community, start watching school board meetings. Learn about the school district. Volunteer to be a reader, a mentor or advocate.
Don’t be complacent and expect someone else to “do it.” It’ll be too late when the damage is done. The only person to blame will be the one in the mirror.