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Alone With J

August 17, 2011

By J SWYGART
    Wisconsin, ya done good.
    Okay, maybe Tuesday’s recall election — specifically targeting six Republican state senators, but in reality a broader referendum on GOP Governor Scott Walker’s assault on the working men and women of the Badger State — didn’t turn out quite like many in the middle class had planned. But it was a laudable effort.
    The Wisconsin Senate today remains in Republican’s control, following special election results that kept four of six GOP incumbents in office. But while the victories are being touted as an endorsement of Walker’s conservative agenda, which included stripping collective bargaining rights from blue-collar public employees, that jubilation could prove to be short-lived.
  A ridiculous amount of money was spent to help the four successful Republican lawmakers, all of whom reportedly reside in heavily GOP-leaning districts, retain their seats. And the hoopla surrounding the elections gave recall supporters the opportunity to remind residents, and the nation, of the dirty political tricks Republicans employed during the campaign — such as putting up “fake” Democrat candidates to force primary elections before the recalls could ever take place.
    Nonetheless, voter turnout for Tuesday’s elections reportedly approached that of presidential-year balloting, a sign that Tuesday’s vote was likely the beginning of a protracted battle, not the end.
    ‘‘The fact of the matter remains that, fighting on Republican turf, we have begun the work of stopping the Scott Walker agenda,’’ said Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate.
    The encouraging news is that Wisconsin’s middle class mobilized itself for the recall votes in ways tea party activists could only dream, proving that “taking back our country” requires common sense involving common folks — not radical agendas spearheaded by lunatic fringe blowhards.

Billboards? Really?
    
    A pair of billboards will be erected by the end of the month in Decatur proudly proclaiming a mission statement adopted last month by the North Adams school board. The billboards will read: “Our mission is Excellence: Teach it, Model it, Inspire it, Achieve it!”
    Those words did not come lightly or easily, it seems. That it was necessary they come at all is another matter altogether.
    At the July meeting of the North Adams board of education, some school board members waxed poetically about the accomplishments made during a recent gathering of school personnel and community representatives. It was in that session that the mission statement, along with a vision statement and a list of “core values/beliefs” for North Adams schools, apparently were hammered out and put down on paper.
    Which is nifty, I guess, if you’re a big fan of mostly meaningless gobbledy-gook.
    Meanwhile, it just strikes me as a little odd that the same school board member who one year earlier had suggested that a board decision to forego the annual $2,000 salary for all board members was little more than feel-good “symbolism” would now become infatuated with symbolism of a similar ilk.
    Not only is it a little mind-boggling that it took a gaggle of people sitting around a table for hours on end to come up with an official mission statement, the fact that so many people apparently were not only willing but actually eager to do so escapes my left-brain mentality.
    I mean, c’mon ... when it comes to school mission statements, anything short of “We Herd ‘Em Through Like Cattle” is probably fine and dandy with most folks. Maybe I’m wrong on this one — it’s been known to happen — but I can’t believe anyone particularly cares. And the generic list of Core Values/Beliefs? It’s probably safe to say the “belief” that “all students are challenged to maximize their learning potential and achievement” is a pretty good one — as beliefs go. (Guess that’s why it’s No. 1 on the list.)
    But educators as a rule seem to like these kinds of things. A lot. It’s a safe bet that Power Point presentations — or at the very least an endless stack of charts, graphs and historical data — were involved in discussions surrounding a mission statement.
    It just seems the $700 spent by the school district on these billboards could have been better utilized. But hey, if they’re happy, I’m happy. Kinda. I guess. Maybe it will help with recruiting efforts, which may have been the goal all along.

    The writer is the opinion page editor of the Decatur Daily Democrat.
  

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