GPS: A map system to nowhere

Greenwich-Voices-von-KeyserlingThe Greenwich Public School System (GPS) claims to listen carefully to and take its direction from the public. But action or, in this case, inaction speaks louder.

Sadly, the long awaited Board of Education (BOE) hearing for its public, last Aug. 29, was deaf, but certainly not mute. What occurred instead, was four and one half hours of equivocation, double talk, platitudes, quicksand positions and changing “facts” from the board and the administration.

The vocal public all raised objections to the superintendent’s “magnet plan.” The board all raised objections to Peter Sherr’s “community school plan.” There were deaf ears and rejection all around. At the meeting’s end nothing was established, solved or moved ahead and all I got was a strange longing for the relative sanity of next week’s return to session for the Representative Town Meeting.

The BOE has been stagnant and dysfunctional throughout a decade and five superintendents.  It’s a puzzlement how so many different, intelligent and dedicated volunteers have consistently been unable to find direction and consensus. And still, there is no road map to real solutions for this century’s educational challenges.

As Election Day approaches, the heat and noise level rises, but no more light. As any steady observer knows, the Sherr election is not so much about Sherr running for re-election, as it is a referendum on the present leadership throughout town, especially from the BOE.

No one in Greenwich seems happy with the BOE’s performance. Students are not progressing. Parents and PTAs cannot get leadership and consistent answers. The BET cannot achieve a partnership of responsible equals in order to create a town budget. The school staff and teachers are frustrated and  dispirited by constantly shifting policy and program.

This election centers on the direction in which voters wish the BOE to move and what role it should play. Educationally, should the BOE serve the administration or the school parents and town taxpayers? Operationally, the question is whether the BOE is an advisory board to the superintendent or is a managing board which creates responsible program and policy direction for the school district administration.

Financially, should the BOE simply submit a “purchase order” each year to the BET? Or should it weigh cost of purchase against the town’s ability to fund?

The real question at the bottom of the Sherr election is “Who runs the town for whom?”

If Sherr is not returned to the BOE, the “Powers That Be” will trumpet his defeat as a sound endorsement of the status quo they represent and the “blind” ear and wax filled eye of the present leadership.

You, the voters, are at a fork in the road.

If you approve of being told what your opinion is; if you feel the bureaucrats and politicians know best; if you believe that the end justifies political means or if you just don’t give a damn about children, taxes, real estate values and the quality of your family’s life, well, don’t vote for Peter Sherr for the BOE then.

Better yet, be like the 80% of registered voters and don’t bother voting at all.

But, this is not what I am hearing on the street or in the stores, schools, and coffee shops.

People seem pretty fed up.  They want decisive leadership.  They want both their children and taxes served.

They want a GPS system that they can rely on to get them home.


Christopher von Keyserling is a Republican and a longtime member of the town’s Representative Town Meeting, though the opinions expressed in this column are his own.

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