At the school board club meeting on April 25, club member Vicki Snell spoke for several minutes, the last three of which were ramblings about respect. Here is a close transcription:

“And… An earlier speaker spoke about respect and about feeling that they’re not being respected and I have to say I try and the board tries, to respect everybody that speaks but I believe that we deserve respect as well. We are public servants and we were elected and we’re beholden to the stakeholders but we’re also beholden to the kids. And when people come up and speak about things we are doing that they don’t agree with that is fine but when they attack individuals on the board or they disrespect us in ways by telling complete lies it’s sometimes hard to sit here and listen to it. It’s very difficult.

“One of the things that happened at the meeting that this speaker was referring to was the three minute rule

“Sure people go over three minutes once in awhile and we let them go over but when somebody speaks continuously at every meeting and they consistently go over not ten second by thirty seconds a minute – that is disrespectful. It is disrespectful to the process, it’s not fair to the other people who want to be heard.

“You’re supposed to speak for three minutes – that what it say and if you want to make it five minutes that’s a whole different thing but our bylaws say three minutes and um I guess I just – I’m blowing off some steam because I think respect goes both ways and w are giving of ourself to this community. I get $450 a month – I mean – that is not why I do this – I donate more than that (unintelligible).

And I also have  problem  – I have no problem with term limits, I’ve made my views on term limits known – but to assume that because somebody is older  and somebody has served this board and this community and to assume that they have no value, that they are in the pocket of this district, that they are disenfranchised – they just – I mean – that’s disrespectful. If you want to come up here and talk about real issues I’m open to that and we have people who do that – [people who say] I don’t like this, this is wrong – I’m open to that but don’t just attack us personally. And I know you will continue to do so, but I feel better now. [vigorous applause from club member Dana Black].”

Snell’s comments are of tremendous value, for they are an insight into the mind of someone who is feeling attacked and defensive. Not defenseless, apparently: Snell spoke at nearly two hours into the meeting, long after most of the crowd had gone home.

Snell seems to think that the three-minute public comment rule was a worthy starting point to blow off steam. It’s not. It is, as the character Hyman Roth said in The Godfather, Part II, “small potatoes.” On a scale of one to ten measuring district priorities, it’s a .05.

But because Snell apparently had no defense for the substance of the public speaker’s comments, she chose to harp on the fact that this person consistently speaks for longer than three minutes, as if it were disrupting the entire education system.

Snell could have chosen to answer the speaker’s arguments and frustrations, which are legitimate and numerous, but she didn’t. Better just to attack the speaker than to respond to the important issues that were raised.

Of course, she does not appreciate the sad irony of demanding respect on the one hand, while criticizing a frustrated taxpayer on the other.

Snell makes $450 a month plus her generous health care coverage? Guess how much Erica and Jeff Roberts have made during the countless hours they have been pushing for an end to Swun Math and demanding even a modicum of accountability from an indifferent administration? They have made less than zero – this fight is costing them some dollars, yes, but it is also costing them a more precious commodity: They have sacrificed precious time with their family because they believed that they are fighting for a worthy cause, which they are.

Other community members are sacrificing of themselves, too, Laurie Smith and Jen Brooks among them. They’re seeking respect just as Snell is, but their version of respect is something that the board and the administration has trouble delivering. To them respect means action. They are tired of talk and want action. People like the Roberts, Smith, and Brooks want the board to stop tip-toeing around the term limits issue and vote on it, one way or another. They want the board to stop the wheel-spinning on the CdM stadium and put a stake in the ground. They want an end to the endless legal fees paid for avoidable circumstances.

They want someone – anyone in a position of responsibility – to apologize to taxpayers for the colossal waste of money spent on the solar panel/baseball field/netting catastrophe. They want someone to be held accountable for the Mariners Gold Ribbon scandal – someone beyond ex-principal Laura Sacks, whose tenure is conveniently being scrubbed from district history.

They want someone to take ownership of these or any of the number of big mistakes they have made over the past several years.

But none of that will ever happen, and that is why the board and the administration are not respected by these people, and many others who are beginning to realize just how out of whack the whole process has become.

Snell doesn’t seem to understand that respect has to be earned. One of the fastest ways to earn respect is to be accountable for your actions.

Respect does not come because someone won an election. If that’s what Snell is looking for, then she should have thought harder before she ran again last year – a campaign in which, according to public records, she spent about $21,000 of family money to win. Odd, isn’t it? Spending that kind of money, then complaining about the low compensation?

Oh, and about term limits… I can’t speak for anyone else, but if Snell believes that the reason more people are pushing for term limits is simply because too many people have served on the school board club for too long, she is mistaken.

These people want term limits because they are tired of the superintendent du jour running the district with no accountability to the board. They want term limits because they are tired of the runner-stamping voting pattern – the same rubber-stamping that club member Yelsey complained about in her first campaign. They want term limits because they are tired of the low levels of transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility.

In other words, they want term limits because they want more respect.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD