[LCSD] Spiraling from one comment to something much more amorphous – oh, and I get a little pretentious along the way, and fall just short of endorsing any candidates

So the new blogger has a post pointing to a comment on their blog.  This comment – in a truly byzantine fashion – goes after an otherwise squeaky-clean student and attempts to link them to LT.  This is on the belated heels of several other aggressive posts and comments.  I’ve been mulling over this particular comment, as well as the whole blog, for several days, and never quite felt like I needed to say anything.

Oddly, one of the reasons I never felt compelled to say anything is that for the most part (the Olsen/Finch thing is an exception), nothing that RLT alleges to be true would bother me if it were true.  Do I believe any of it?  No, not without some shred of evidence, and given the tone of the comments and posts over there I’m not inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.  I mean, when you announce an agenda to go after someone no matter what it takes, up to and including dragging people only marginally related through the mud, then you’ve sort of set up a disincentive for people to believe that you’re telling the truth, haven’t you?

Oh, and I should say that I do believe in the right of anyone to blog about whatever they want.  (However, I am not saying they should have the legal right, just that I don’t think it’s my place to tell them they can’t do something.)  That said, I tend to separate “can I?” and “should I?”, and it is on the latter question that I think the RLT falls flat.  In other words, I have the right (I can) do a lot of things that are not necessarily smart, like (I shouldn’t) jump off a bridge or (I shouldn’t) bang my head against a wall until it bleeds.  Frankly, if the goal is to get LT to stop blogging and/or out them, this is precisely the wrong way to go about it.  Besides, it is only going to harden everyone’s resolve and create a lot more ill will in the LCSD, when it seems like the district is very close to really turning a corner on all the acrimony.

Let me be clear:  I am upset by the RLT, but not because it’s getting to me or anything stupid like that (sorry!).  No, what upsets me isn’t even (again, for the most part) the specific things that RLT is alleging.  What upsets me is the tone, the idea that the ends justify the means to such an extent that RLT has no problem going after HS students whose lives are just barely related to the political goings-on in Lebanon and who have not placed themselves in the public sphere.  That is a line that, as far as I know, has never been crossed in this whole pathetic affair, and should never be crossed.  It is not OK to go after someone’s children because you have a beef with someone who you think might know their parents. Can we stop and consider how out-of-bounds that is?

I want to try and wrap up this post by noting there is one common thread that I think needs to change in the LCSD for things to get better, and that is this:  Process matters. A lot.  The means are not justified by the ends; the means determine the ends (and if anyone wants to question this, I only need one example to prove my point:  Iraq).  A community torn apart and filled with people, say, going after the children of others is not going to result in a solid, well-performing school district that is supported by the community, because the community is going to be too busy imploding to support its students (see the LCSD School Board circa 2006-2008 or so).  A school board member who still, after years, chooses to ignore the rest of the board and try and bend others to his will through brute force is not going to result in a district that runs smoothly; instead, said board member’s intransigence is going to result in the board chair – a former ally/disciple, in this case – spending time at almost every meeting talking the board member down from trying to push another half-baked idea, and the rest of the board ignoring the board member who can’t or won’t work with others.

Instead, as has started to happen in the district (and I actually credit Steve Kelley and his recent hiring processes for providing a good example of this), people talk to each other, communicate about their differences, and collaborate to reach agreements that have buy-in from everyone.  This has resulted in much smoother board meetings, a serious decrease in nasty audience comments (with one other really notable exception besides Alexander*), and me feeling like I have to drop a lot fewer F-bombs in posts about the LCSD.

All that said, the way forward seems clear:  Collaboration and compromise to build power, not competition to wrest it from the hands of others; communication to reach a common understanding, not cliques that spread rumors; and a focus on the needs of the district, not character assassination.  The RLT blog is most definitely not on this page.  They seem to want to drag the discourse in the district down into the lowest possible gutter, and I think the community would benefit a lot from a serious case of social condemnation and shunning in this case.  Again, RLT can say whatever they want, within the bounds of the law, but that doesn’t mean anything they say is a good idea, or helps the district (and frankly, this is a suggestion we could all take to heart a little better).  So, Lebanon:  What’s it going to be?  Can you manage to leave behind those who aren’t willing to work together and to commit to making the district a better place?  Or, despite the the removal of Robinson and the hiring of Rob Hess, are you still going to struggle along, mired in petty politics and old grudges?  You want to complete the changes that have swept the district in the last year?  The election is a great way to do that.  Which candidates are willing to work with others, and which candidates seem like they think the district should be their own fiefdom?

*The notable exception, of course, is Kim Fandino.  For some reason, she seems unable to move beyond a simplistic good/evil conception of the district, where all the teachers are good and every administrator  is bad.  And while her most recent audience comment indicate that might be changing, I am skeptical enough to need more evidence than a few nice words.  Besides, the few interactions I’ve had with her suggest she doesn’t really understand collaboration as anything other than a ruse to get her way.
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10 Comments on “[LCSD] Spiraling from one comment to something much more amorphous – oh, and I get a little pretentious along the way, and fall just short of endorsing any candidates”

  1. anonymous Says:

    At the bottom of this you said that Kim Fandino was trying to be nicer in the last public comments session of the Board Meeting.
    I would disagree.
    She LAMBASTED George Lanning.
    She flat out accused him of not listening, of not caring, of doing things only because he had a ‘legal right to’, and of being an “outsider” who couldn’t possibly know what was best for Lebanon.
    Does she even LIVE and pay taxes here in Lebanon?
    Does she really care about all the turmoil in the COMMUNITY or only about her job and the Union being a way to get her the position and power she wants?
    How can YOU say she is getting better just because she has gone out of her way to be extra nice to you recently while ignoring this repeat offender behavior?
    She regularly uses that Board Meeting forum to publicly punish people and try to manipulate the Board.
    How can we keep letting her use the “PUBLIC comments” section to abuse the other employees of the District?
    The School Board should not let ANYONE ignore the process for dealing with disagreements with other employees.
    I believe she owes George Lanning who has worked hard in a very uncooperative and combative climate, and everyone who heard/read her public comments, an apology.

  2. Dennis Says:

    Anon – I assume you are talking about the last regular board meeting; at the special session last week (on the 20th of April), KF struck a far more conciliatory tone towards Lanning and the board. She didn’t apologize, but she suggested that the board, the DO, and the unions pick some representatives to get together and start meeting regularly outside of negotiations and board meetings to build a better working relationship. That’s what I was referring to with my comment. However, you are absolutely right about the previous board meeting; she threw a totally unwarranted tantrum over something she didn’t appear to understand, up to including attacks on Lanning that were definitely uncalled for.

    I don’t think KF has been extra nice to me, actually. She’s just been regular nice. And note that I did say I was skeptical and needed more than nice words (and note the rest of this comment). Chill out =)

  3. Dennis Says:

    Oh, and in case it’s not crystal clear, I agree with anonymous’ comment. Their description of her behavior is exactly what I remember, and I agree that KF should apologize to Lanning. The only thing I would add is what I suggested in the above comment: that KF could be changing her tone for the better, but that I am skeptical.

  4. Susan Says:

    I was not impressed with KF on either occasions for more than one reason.

    1. When things become repetitive then it raises concern with me, and the “lets get together and do coffee” may placate things for a while, but when we have had at least two other Superintendents move to the level of tyranny, and George Lanning seems to be moving, in the short time he has been here (or will be here), in that direction. When, if ever, does it stop?

    2. In reading (a lot), over the past couple of months, I came across a letter that was read to the board by KF explaining how she has familiarized herself with state laws that have to do with the union and the district. In the public comments she insisted the board should make the Superintendent violate state law.

    Ralph Gastin (running for school board), who claims he has been present at board meetings for the last two years, served on the budget committee, has a Masters in Business Administration, AND claims (among other things) to have all the answers, yet has had to “sit on his hands”. You would think that he would hesitate IF he didn’t have all the answers before suggesting the violation of state law.

    Alexander, who HAS sat on the board for several years, KNOWS or should have known, that the Superintendent IS required by state law, yet questioned George Lanning to the point of frustration over it – am I the only one that sees something wrong with this picture?

    Do the three of them understand the difference when a Superintendent says “I won’t” -vs- “I can’t”?

  5. Susan Says:

    Maybe I should clarify that this occurred at the April 20th meeting and both KF and Gastin got up and spoke during public comment. ( I don’t blog well…)

    All of them addressing the budget.

  6. Dennis Says:

    George Lanning? Tyranny? What?

  7. Susan Says:

    *sigh* I was trying to make a point, but failed. My bad.

  8. anonymous Says:

    I think Susan was trying to say that some of these same people keep pushing the Superintendent (no matter who is filling that role by the way; full-time, assistant, interim, etc.) to the point that they appear tyrannical because they so “unreasonably” ask to be allowed to do their job according to State and Federal laws.
    They are confused at how the Board and Union reps and others could ask them to do illegal things, as if they are the ones being unreasonable for not being willing/able to do so.
    They don’t just answer to the local School Board and community. And they can’t always do what those would like them to do/not do.
    They have to follow the rules/laws or they lose their licensing.
    The District loses funding.
    Isn’t that what a good School Board Member should be all about?
    To help ensure that everyone understands and does their job to the best of their ability for the good of the students and thus the community?
    Supporting the Superintendent to do the best job possible within the restraints and requirements of the government’s overarching authority?
    To hire the best you can find and them let them do exactly what you hired them for.
    These Superintendents have repeatedly asked in various ways what Mr. Lanning so clearly articulated in that April 20th Board meeting: “Please just let me do my job!”

  9. Dennis Says:

    I agree with that, for sure. Instead we’ve had a board who thinks that the appropriate response to a Super not doing what they want is to try and do the Super’s job for them, which is a recipe for disaster. I hope that’s changing.

  10. Susan Says:

    Thank you anonymous @11:21. That was what I was trying to say. You expanded on it, and I could not agree with you more.

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