Apparently, Oshkosh School District Superintendent Stan Mack isn't muzzling School Board members--he just thinks they have nothing to say about parents' unhappiness with new elementary school bus routes. Superintendent Mack engaged me in a very animated phone conversation Thursday morning about why his secretary told our reporter that Board members are no longer to be contacted about the busing controversy.
It's Mack's contention that bus routes are a matter of "day-to-day" operation--and that the School Board couldn't possibly be expected to know everything about minor details like what time kids at Oakwood School are being dropped off in the morning. Therefore, to be asked about the route changes would be "unfair" to those on the Board. He also tried to compare it to my situation here in the private sector--arguing that my bosses in Atlanta don't have input on what news stories we air everyday.
I will grant you that our News/Talk Format Director couldn't tell you what our top story is everyday--but he is acutely aware of the format we follow, what talk shows we air, the timing and length of our commercial breaks, how many ads we have available each hour and what our ratings are in the market. And if we were missing major stories, getting facts wrong in every story and generating listener complaints--he would definitely know about that and there would definitely be feedback generated in my direction.
What Superintendent Mack seems to want everyone to forget is that the School Board set in motion the process for the bus route changes to take place. It was the Board that approved the $250,000 reduction in the district's transportation budget--giving Kobussen the okay to reduce the number of routes it runs in the district every morning and afternoon. And it was the Board that approved standardized start times for all elementary schools--meaning some kids will be dropped off much earlier at one building than those going to a building further along in the route.
It stands to reason that since the Board was involved in those two decisions, they are fair game for answering questions about them. Were we going to ask Allison Garner if she thinks kids on the east side of Jackson Street should be picked up before those on the west side? No. Because--as Superintendent Mack suggests--there is no way she should have to know that kind of minutiae. But shouldn't Garner be able to answer if she was aware that kids might have to be on a bus for more than an hour before she voted to cut that quarter-million in the transportation budget? And couldn't she tell us if she knew that some students would be dropped off a half-hour before the first class when she voted in favor of the standardized start times? Just because she may not know the exact times and locations of stops and dropoffs, couldn't Board member Garner share her opinion of whether parents have a legitimate gripe? And wouldn't she be able to answer the question of whether she would vote in favor of the budget cut and the start times if she knew what she knows now about the impact they might have on students and families?
While we may not be getting the answers that you the parents, voters and taxpayers of the Oshkosh School District are demanding from our elected officials. Superintendent Mack will be back on with Bob Burnell at 6:50 this morning to--again--do all the talking.