Now What Did I Do?

Every once in a while, something comes up that you just can’t stay quiet about. Such is the case with the Benton Community school board. They’ve done some weird things recently, including re-admitting some students that were expelled according to the school’s “zero tolerance” policy. But the thing that got me wound up was when they “voted” to hire a new attorney. It’s a long article, and the part about the attorney is the last half of the article, but I’ve posted a link to it here: (you may have to cut and paste this link into your browser)

Anyway. Their shenanigans prompted me to write a letter to the editor of the South Benton Star-Press, and it got published. There’s no link to it, so I’m including it below. It goes like this:

I have a question for the Benton Community Schools Board of Directors:

What is UP with you people?

I ask this question in light of the article in the South Benton Star-Press (30 Jan) where the board “discussed” hiring a new attorney. I use the word “discussed” loosely, because it didn’t really sound like a discussion at all. The impression received from the article is that five members of the board had met informally and decided to choose a new attorney. Two members of the board were not notified of these informal meetings (which I assume were probably by phone or e-mail). Then the five members, primarily Board President Schanbacher and Vice President Harrington, defended this decision by declaring it their “right” to do so. Ms. Schanbacher is quoted as saying “… we are in the realm of ourselves to change legal counsel.” (emphasis added).While it may be true that the board can change their legal counsel, the manner in which this change was made is highly irregular. Normally, a motion is made during an open meeting to replace counsel, then research is done with the knowledge of the entire board and several firms are chosen for review. The board then chooses from among the options, and the best firm is chosen by a majority of the entire board. To have one person choose a new law firm and then not inform all parties involved in the decision making process smacks of conspiracy and imperiousness. Is this the impression that the board wishes to leave with the parents and taxpayers of the Benton Community School District? I certainly hope not, but given the information and quotes from the article it would seem so. When board members go on the defensive, stating “it’s our right” “this is the board’s attorney” “it’s in our realm” and “the president shouldn’t have to call you on matters like this”, the people of the school district sense a definite problem within the board, and especially in the leadership.

President Schanbacher is quoted in the article as saying, “Change is sometimes a good thing. … maybe a new fresh perspective on what has happened could be something that would definitely help the board out.”

Very true. But perhaps the change shouldn’t be with the legal counsel. Maybe it should be with the board when the next election cycle comes around.

Submitted by:Nancy A, BodeAtkins, IA

WELL!!! You’d think I’d just have written the Magna Carta, given the response I’ve received about this. I’ve had cards, e-mails and phone calls all praising my “well written article”. “You’ve hit the nail on the head”, a couple of other people told me. (At this point, you should imagine me digging my toe into the dirt saying, “Aw, shucks!”) At the last Community Club meeting, Carl had several people tell him that they agreed with my letter. All these accolades are rather overwhelming, considering the only thing I did was tell the truth in a letter. But apparently folks around here felt the same way I did, and I just managed to be the one who was chosen to have their words put in the newspaper. I’ve not had one negative comment (yet) although I wait with trepidation for the upcoming edition of the paper on Thursday. I wonder if I’ve opened a can of worms with this letter. If I have, I can only pray that good will come of it, because all I did was tell the truth. I mean, isn’t the truth supposed to set you free?

Let’s hope so.

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