Op-Ed: Former 271 trustees encourage civility
As former school board trustees for Coeur d’Alene School District 271, we are concerned by recent news articles and editorials highlighting local security concerns stemming from safety concerns around school board meetings.
We understand collectively how important education is for success and stability, especially for our most vulnerable families. We also understand how important it is for students to learn in class with their peers. We are confident our school district will find a way to navigate through complex times, but we ask for your consideration based on our personal experiences as school district trustees.
School board service is volunteer-based, despite being decided by election. Many, who observe this board work, consider it a thankless job. As former trustees, we don’t share that sentiment because we found immense gratitude and support for education here in Coeur d’Alene, which made our volunteer service worthwhile. Countless levies passed prove there continues to be majority support for the positive things happening in our local schools.
Yet, Coeur d’Alene schools is mired in controversy once again. A recent meeting was canceled abruptly due to security concerns. Police were also called after protester behavior locked down the district’s main office. We personally know employees who were individually escorted to their vehicles by law enforcement at the end of their workday — in response to protester rhetoric. Our most recent school board meeting was conducted via Zoom due to ongoing security concerns. Two board members have since resigned.
We have seen deep debate before. This isn’t new. Controversial school board issues have appeared throughout our local history from time to time. What is new to the conversation is the community-wide concern for trustee and staff safety as our school board meets to continue the business of the district. Recent protests look more than contentious. This follows a national trend that looks divisive and un-safe. Collectively, in all our years of service when we dealt with controversial issues, we never saw this behavior and faced safety risks to this degree. We implore the community to continue our prior practice of advocating with civility.
There’s no greater resource to the future of our democratic republic than our children. As former trustees of Coeur d’Alene’s schools, we encourage community members to help our local school board by advocating for and practicing calm collaboration going forward. We believe parents and patrons alike want only what is best for our students. Who would be against that? We also understand there may be many interpretations about ‘what is best for students.’ And we know, Coeur d’Alene School District trustees and the administration have a greater chance of arriving at decisions that best represent the shared local values of all stakeholders when we all advocate opinions in a way that respects the established meeting process.
The mission of Coeur d’Alene School District 271 is worthy of community-wide support. It states, “In Coeur d’Alene Public Schools, we believe each student deserves powerful learning in every subject, at every age, and in every learning environment. Further, we believe that each student can achieve at high levels, regardless of individual differences, gender, ethnicity, language, ability, or socio-economic status.”
Regardless of differences, as former trustees, we believe each student can absolutely achieve at high levels. We enthusiastically support the district’s adopted mission. Volunteering on an elected board is not easy and the mission of our district is no small task. As a community, let's encourage civility between neighbors as we come together to support our local school district.
Dr. Dave Wold
Rev. Bill Hemenway