The city election isnít quite old news yet and already the rumor mill is running in overdrive.
Regardless, congratulations to those candidates who now are elected to the Franklin City Council and administration. We are all looking forward to four years of prosperity, wisdom, peace and sensibility, qualities occasionally lacking in chambers, but we have high hopes that this is a thing of the past.
The olí rumor mill is smoking with output, of course, and weíll all have to just take a wait-and-see stance over who promised what to whom and who might be in versus who might be out as election payback.
It was a pretty fair run, actually, the last few years. While former Mayor Sam Jones did leave us with the home rule charter Ė something I think was long overdue and sorely needed Ė the change to four single-member and one at-large council districts in Franklin has done nothing but confuse and confound the bejeezus out of people, including the candidates, and now weíre stuck with said districts ad infinitum. They have accomplished vitually nothing for minority voting strength in Franklin if you consider the makeup of the current council versus the one elected last weekend. In fact, two new council members went in without opposition, a first in Franklin history, and both are white. Thatís not to disparage those members, but itís interesting especially since one black candidate beat another black candidate in two races for single-member districts. The mayor was elected without opposition, as well, in a race that is at-large and therefore no different under the new voting districts. Prime example of the adage, "If it ainít broke, donít fix it." Itís, in my mind, just fostering the "district politics" mentality that Franklin was never plagued with before now, but has brutalized parish and school board politics for generations. Some of you wet-behind-the-ears young whippersnappers may not remember the days when the President of the St. Mary Parish Police Jury, if he was from the east end of the parish, wouldnít turn his head right of the podium to recognize west end members of the jury clammoring for the floor. And vice versa if the President of the Police Jury was from the west end of the parish. I remember those days, and I sure hope theyíre dead and buried.
Some of the most bizarre and unexpected political alliances emerged from this last election, and you can easily tell by the results exactly what the lineup looked like, though some of the rumor mill output, if proven correct, might be surprising. Iíll certainly let you know, of course.
The school board issues were the other, perhaps even hotter, items on last weekendís ballot and now that itís over, the winners are gloating and the losers are sulking, hereís my two cents, and thatís about all itís worth.
It might be appropriate to let sleeping dogs lie since the whole thingís over, but who am I to be appropriate? I find it odd Ė to say the least Ė that the school system did not propose two options: Renewal of the existing millage and another option for the additional tax to bring the total up to 12 mills. It strikes me as foul play, really, to present to the voters one option alone: Give us 12 mills or nothing, along with all the alleged repercussions, instead of saying, "Renew what weíve got and please give us a little more, too."
"But the existing millage isnít enough," they say, but, well, you know, five bucks for lunch is not as good as ten bucks for lunch, but itís better than nothing if youíre hungry, isnít it? Smacks of arm-twisting, or strong-arming, however you want to look at it, and thatís what I object to.
Hereís another thing: That monstrosity of an elementary school they want to build on this end of the parish? Biiiiggg boo-boo. I believe firmly in community schools, in neighborhood schools even. This parish consolidated schools in the 1980s and the results were disastrous. The school system is an inverted pyramid, with the administration at the top, the widest part of this upside-down pyramid, and the kids down in the tip at the bottom, and that just isnít right. My conservative friends will cringe at my remarks, Iím sure, but I believe in small schools, small classrooms and the results, I think, are better students and better graduates. I graduated elementary school in a class of five, and see what a fine upstanding and model citizen I turned out to be!
Though we may consolidate and congregate and compress everything else in our lives to accommodate the rat-races weíre living in, we really donít need to be doing that with our kids and their educations. Kids learn better and behave better and adapt better in small schools in small environments where they can get the help they need, or the encouragement, or the discipline, whatever. Twenty kids in a class is far better than 40, and 10 is even better than 20. That shopping mall of an elementary school they plan to build on this end of the parish is just another waste, not only of money, but of our kids. We turned out generation after generation of good, educated, hard-working and conscientious kids in this country from tiny school houses and small classes for centuries until the industrialization of education. Itís all gone downhill since then, and the Luddites such as myself have mourned it badly.
Another thing, while Iím on my soap box: The most important employees in the administration of this school system should not be supervisors, assistant superintendents, the super himself, or school board members, it should be principals and then teachers. Good principals should be rewarded and encouraged to stay in those small community schools, and we shouldnít discourage or disparage any man or woman for wanting a promotion to the Central Office Complex for better pay, better duties. But thatís counterproductive and self-destructive to the school system. Pay, duties and incentives ought to be designed to keep good principals in place, like good captains of good ships with good crews.
Of course, then we come to teachers. If the lower, wide base of that financial Ė and prioritized Ė pyramid, placed properly right-side-up, is the students, the teachers come in at nearly the same level as the principals. They need to have the incentives to stay and do the jobs that matter most in a school system instead of looking for work elsewhere or getting into administration just for better pay and freedom from crazy classroom congestions and shenanigans.
By the same token, with all personnel across the board, those who canít cut the mustard need to be culled without hesitation.
Of all the political bodies in this parish, the school board is viewed with more suspicion than any other, decades and decades of conniving and conjuring responsible for todayís wariness. When you have control of any type over peopleís kids, you have something powerful, a tool often used to its worst potential.