Enough already

FI-EditorialIt’s not a particularly good sign that we’re several weeks into the new term on the Board of Education and we’re still going back and forth over who will be the chairman.

It’s time to bring this to a close, and if all goes according to plan, the board will tonight finally elect a slate of officers after a deadlock, a delay, a second deadlock, a third deadlock, and one more delay. There’s a limited time frame in play here because when the board couldn’t agree on officers on Nov. 21 it started a 30-day countdown by which if the Board of Education can’t put its own house in order the Board of Selectmen steps in.

The Board of Education members have made clear they don’t want that. And the Board of Selectmen doesn’t want the decision either. Why add this hornet’s nest to an already packed agenda?

It would be best for all concerned if the Board of Education could elect its own chairman. But so far, weeks of lobbying and attempted deal making have led to the same results — the four Republicans supporting Republican Peter Sherr and the four Democrats supporting Democrat Adriana Ospina. It’s clear something will break, but in what direction? Which side will be the one to blink?

Last week’s meeting, where several weeks of waiting and behind-the-scenes discussion resulted in the same deadlock that occurred on Nov. 21, bordered on farce. There were two tie votes and it could have gone all night before both sides simply decided to try again next week to continue the discussion first.

What’s happened in that week? Only the board members themselves know for sure, but it probably involves a lot of long phone calls and angry emails and maybe even a promise or two. It’s likely that tonight’s meeting will see a resolution, since no one wants to see this drag on any longer, especially since the last scheduled board meeting before the selectmen have to step in happens to be the same night that the board has another small matter to discuss, known as the 2014-15 school budget.

That’s not to suggest that the board simply needs to pick any random chairman. This isn’t like the joke where the day’s starting pitcher will be the lucky ticket holder in Row G, seat 37B. This is a vital position on one of the most important boards in town. It has to be done carefully. But at the same time it’s silly to see this devolve into political theater. At one point, Democrats felt they had a Republican who would switch and vote for Ms. Ospina, but that obviously didn’t happen. The overheard reason? “Republicans would kill me.”

That’s not a reason, and it wouldn’t have been a reason if it had been a Democrat potentially switching votes. It must be repeated, this is not a political prize. Is Mr. Sherr the right choice? Is Ms. Ospina? Is a third candidate, perhaps Vice Chairman Barbara O’Neill, the right choice? Are any of these candidates ones the board can work with?

There are too many reports about refusals to accept vice chairmanships or too many demands being made as part of a deal or lack of trust in this member or that member. No one looks good and no one is happy.

The decision must be made as to who is the best person to lead the board, regardless of party. This paper believes that person is Ms. Ospina, a proven leader who can help build consensus and someone who will advocate for all of Greenwich’s schools. But this is the board’s choice to make, and the town deserves that choice to be because the new chairman is the best candidate and not because of which deals were made.

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