Thursday, December 22, 2011

Learning From the Past

I have to admit, I'm impressed by how the Oshkosh School Board has learned the lessons from mistakes made by previous Boards.  That is especially true in how it is handling the upcoming Oaklawn Elementary referendum.

Unlike the first attempt at getting voters to approve construction of a new Oaklawn, this Board avoided the temptation of moving the school to an area where no one actually lives.  I was a bit concerned when the District sent out that press release right before the referendum-setting meeting about having an offer to purchase land on Highway A north of town.  I thought "here comes the U-Boat that will torpedo the USS Oaklawn before it can even get out of port". 

But this Board listened to those who will serve as the biggest cheerleaders for the referendum--Oaklawn parents themselves--and decided to build on the site of the existing school.  That is a positive change from the obstinate Board of the past that was so sure that building on Ryf Road would magically create a development boom in that area.  (Obviously, they weren't keeping a very close eye on the looming housing and debt bubble that has brought new residential construction to a virtual standstill since then).

And then this week, the current members showed that they learned another lesson from the previous Board by working on a backup plan in case this referendum isn't successful.  Some might consider that to be a defeatist attitude--but those of us who take a more pragmatic approach to planning see it as a responsible thing to do.  Right now, it looks like that backup plan would call for the closure of Oaklawn--and the re-distribution of elementary school students throughout the District. 

Is that going to be popular with a lot of parents?  Probably not.  But it's a far better strategy than the hard-headed Board adopted in the wake of the first Oaklawn referendum failure--to sit and pout, while the school continued to decay around the students.  I doubt we are going to hear from any current Boardmembers how "embarrassed" they are by their constituents--or how "Oshkosh clearly doesn't care about kids"--if voters say "no" again.

Einstein defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again--and expecting a different result."  It's nice to know this School Board is more sane than some of its predecessors.

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