Do it the right way
Saturday, March 9, 2013 • 3:48pm
When you enter public office, you have to be aware of the fact that you will, at some time or another, be attacked for what you do. Someone either isn’t going to like what you’re doing, want you to do more, or want to use you to climb up the political ladder for their own purposes.
Such is the case with a recent letter to the editor posted by would-be school board candidate, William Connolly. Although the letter appears to “ghost written”, we’ll give the stated author the benefit of the doubt. While it is usually better to ignore such calumny, it would be instructive to address this particular bit of campaign fodder. Additionally, not unlike a broken clock, the author isn’t entirely wrong about everything he says. I shall endeavor to put his views in the proper context.
As a school board member, your primary focus should be advocating for children. It is important to understand what their needs are, the confounding elements in the system that inhibit improvements and have the determination, commitment and yes, courage to fight for the students in your charge by trying to address these confounding factors. School Board candidates should be showcasing their abilities and/or particularized concerns as they introduce themselves to the public.
So the first thing you should hear from a candidate is either what educational issues they hope to see addressed or how they plan to deliver a particular set of skills to attack the problems that inhibit educational progress. The-would-be-candidate failed to list anything like this and instead chose to level a set of ad hominem attacks at the sitting school board members. Since part of the role of a school board member is to build consensus amongst their colleagues in order to advance their version of the educational agenda, it is hard to see how the author’s approach supports this effort.
Most egregious is the fact that the needs (none of which he seemed able to state) of the children were not as important as the candidate’s need to attack his possible future colleagues (should the community make the dubious choice of electing this individual to higher office). As to the issue of using the board of education as a stepping stone for future office, it troubles me that this may be the one area that Mr. Connolly’s broken clock approach bears fruit. This has been an increasingly common practice and frequently a detriment to the children in the school district. Members may alter their positions on educational issues to make themselves more palatable to political interests.
The community needs to aggressively discourage this practice with their voices and their votes. I join Mr. Connolly in calling upon candidates to affirm their determination to advocate for our children’s educational futures instead of positioning themselves for their own political futures.
Regarding my medical license, a topic of particular concern for the would-be-candidate, a person auditioning for public office should try to demonstrate a command of the facts, rather than a strong ability to distort the lines of truth when addressing the community. In the interest of furthering the debate, I am a physician for life, whether I choose to practice or not, just as PhDs remain PhDs whether they are doing research or not.
My medical license remains on file with the state of NJ and for an ever increasing fee, they will gladly, upon receipt of my check, reinstate it. After working 11 years in Emergency Medicine, one of the more demanding areas, given these urban conditions, I do not apologize to anyone for taking a Sabbatical from my career and its considerable monetary rewards, to volunteer my time to attempt to improve the educational prospects for the people who share this community with me.
My singular success is meaningless if those around me derive no lasting benefit from my being here. And I will continue to provide that service for as long as I can financially afford to do so and the community views that service to be of value. For the record, it is only because I was not in practice that I could develop the reputation for frankness and independence that enables me to function solely in the public interest.
Lastly, I encourage other candidates to understand that there are a legion of issues in this city’s educational arena that are worth attacking. The Christie administration intends to cut funding to the district over time. Indeed, holding us at current funding levels amounts to a financial cut. The governor further plans to divert Title I money from the needs of disadvantaged children. Most egregious, he plans to close our schools and give that real estate to unproven charter schools, schools largely run by private business concerns.
We also have extremely challenging facilities. Our curriculum, while being reformed, isn’t as rigorous or expansive as it needs to be. And then there is the matter of the stultifying encumbrance of state control. You have a lot that you can sink you teeth into and if you are serious, fight to change. This should be the real focus of your attacks, not the spewing forth of pointless and unfocused opprobrium at your potential colleagues.