Tuesday, October 20, 2020

School board boss right on target

| September 30, 2020 1:00 AM

For volunteering countless hours to the citizens of Coeur d’Alene School District as a trustee and the school board’s chair, here’s what Casey Morrisroe can expect:

Occasional heartfelt thanks and avalanches of criticism — sometimes the poisonous, gutless kind.

That was the case just over a week ago, when Morrisroe and his fellow school board members made an unpopular decision to keep the district in “orange.” Some critics mistakenly believed school officials were eschewing Panhandle Health District’s “yellow” designation, and in so doing, making life harder on parents and students alike. They unleashed hundreds of furious comments against the school district — and against each other.

Some critics might not have understood that at the time, the school district was following criteria it had set up much earlier, metrics with which PHD and the community largely agreed.

Being public servants, school district employees and trustees know they’re subject to criticism from those who either pay their wages or elected them for volunteer positions like Morrisroe’s. Looking for praise? Satisfied customers rarely speak up, so good luck with that. The angry throngs? They avail themselves of every opportunity to be heard, these days emboldened by like-minded people gathered in social media echo chambers.

That’s precisely what happened 10 days ago, and it’s why Morrisroe made a bold move. He pulled the plug on the Facebook lynch mob that sunk to one of the lowest points we’ve seen in the arena of civic engagement. As Morrisroe said, “…it fell well below the character of a community as great as Coeur d'Alene."

"I cannot support the use of the district's Facebook page for staff, citizens and students to squabble and attack one another," Morrisroe added. "Going forward, board meetings will be live-streamed through the district's YouTube channel only."

No, the school board is not blocking access to its meetings. Another option, maybe less toxic, maybe not, is taking Facebook’s place. We’re eager to see if the Facebook crowd migrates over or if the audience or atmosphere proves to be a little calmer and cooler.

Meantime, we offer two suggestions for citizens who really do want to exemplify the “character of a community as great as Coeur d’Alene.”

One, heed the sound advice of Press columnist Kerri Thoreson, who last week wrote this about the toxic environment, even among friends, proliferating on social media:

“…What I’m seeing and reading of late makes me realize that most of us are struggling with our humanity. I absolutely celebrate a passionate difference of opinion and perspective but not the hatefulness spewed by people I know for sure are not hateful people.

"My suggestion is for everyone to read out loud the words you write before you hit the post button. Does it sound like anything you’d actually say to another person face-to-face, to a customer? If not, step away from the keyboard.”

The other suggestion? Quit social media, an addictive, illness-spreading affliction that, unchecked, poses a direct threat to civilization. By resigning from that toxic, false world, you may do more than extend important friendships and other relationships. You might actually live longer.