We're going to find out what members of the Oshkosh School Board are made of this month. The board starts debate tonight on its controversial attendance area plan--which will shift kids from the Lakeside elementary area (on the far south end of the district) to Merrill Middle School and North High School--in order to balance enrollments in the future.
We already know that parents of Lakeside students are very upset with the plan. They have printed up buttons with "Merrill" and "North" crossed out by a big red "X" and they will be out in force the next few Wednesdays as the school board considers the plan. I can guarantee there will be tears shed, angry diatribes and some threats made. Some parents may even exploit their kids by propping them up to read statements before the board saying how their lives will be shattered by having to ride the bus two more minutes to attend a northside school.
And that is where we will find out who has "onions" on the school board. In the past, some members have caved to such limited public pressure--acting as though hurting even three people's feelings makes them a bad politician. Or perhaps they think they are being shrewd politicians. "If I don't make these people happy they are going to work against me in the next election and I will lose and I don't want to lose because then how am I going to impose my will on the community?"
The current plan was put together by the board itself during a daylong retreat with a consensus of members supporting it. But will that support remain strong now that the board is out of its protected cocoon and are under the bright lights of a more open meeting format. If they believe this is the best solution for the district, the kids and the taxpayers then they need to stick to their guns. Don't bow to what is really limited pressure and put the plan in place.
Will all of the boardmembers really stick with it. I doubt it. In fact, I'm waiting for the John Kerry moment during the next school board election cycle. You know--"I voted for the attendance area plan before I voted against it."