Tuesday, November 30, 2021

School board earns A with selection

| November 17, 2021 1:00 AM

Let’s hope the appointment Monday night of Heather Tenbrink to the vacancy on Coeur d’Alene’s school board will not be the difference between effective leadership and instructional ruin.

After the defeat of school board member Lisa May and candidate Lindsey Swingrover on Nov. 2, the far right appeared to have gained a strong foothold among the five-member governing board. That’s why this week’s appointment was deemed essential to keep the region’s largest school district going in the right direction during tumultuous political times.

But let’s pause for just a moment and look at recent developments both analytically and optimistically.

Victorious candidates Allie Anderton and Lesli Bjerke both opposed District 271’s essential two-year levy request earlier this year. Even though the levy is called “supplemental,” it comprises nearly a quarter of the district’s operating funds. Think what you would do without a quarter of your operating funds and you get the picture.

Bjerke’s and Anderton’s recent levy antagonism is rightfully of great concern to district patrons, but that was then and this is now.

Sometimes when outsiders step into public service and see firsthand how money is spent — a powerful transition from theory to practical application — their perspectives change. And maybe Anderton and Bjerke will bring some fresh ideas to the table.

It would also be unfair to assume that either of these citizens will automatically be beholden to their political support groups rather than the 10,000 students, employees and residents within District 271. Let’s give them a chance to learn and see where they lead after being seated on the board in January.

In the meantime, the fact that nine qualified district residents stepped forward and offered to fill the vacant seat speaks volumes not just about them, but about the mission at hand. We can’t think of a more difficult job today, particularly one that pays exactly zero.

If you’ve watched any school board meetings recently, the berating and belittling that school board members endure goes beyond what any volunteer, at any level, deserves. Agree or disagree, these public servants are doing the best they can for the children and adults in their charge.

That nine good people stepped into the potential line of fire is encouraging. It means that mob scenes and threats will not shape policy; that intimidation from radicalized, irrational neighbors will prove far less effective than sincere attempts to communicate constructively.

With the selection of Heather Tenbrink to the school board, the future remains bright.