When members of the Bend-La Pine School Board surrender their seats, they should try auditioning as actors. They do their best to make the absurd seem sensible. And if they can do it with arguments, why not characters?
The board voted Tuesday night to name the district’s newest elementary school North Star. If you’ve been following the naming process, you’ll remember the school district called on the public to get involved. Then it didn’t listen to the public. Next time, why should the public bother?
Arlie Seems got the most votes. He taught for more that 30 years in different Bend elementary schools. He was a great teacher. He grew up here. He died in 2013.
He didn’t even make the final list. The naming committee’s top choice was North Star. Seems got some 130 votes from the public. North Star got one.
We thought we could count. The school board and naming committee must be using the new, new math.
On Tuesday night, board member Peggy Kinkade kicked off the final decision by making a strong argument for naming the school after Ruth Reid, who was an early Bend teacher and principal. Her name has met the test of time. Women have always played a key role in education in Bend, Kinkade said, and few schools are named for women. Made a lot of sense. Board member Carrie Douglass essentially seconded what Kinkade said.
But it was other arguments that won out. Board member Ron Gallinat was the key booster of an I-can’t-prioritize argument. He said he was challenged naming a school after a person because there are so many people after whom schools could be named.
“I wish we could honor them all, and we don’t have enough schools,” he said.
We bet that approach to decision-making would make it mighty hard to negotiate a buffet or pick a show on Netflix.
Board members Stuart Young and Andy High were the expositors of a respect-the-process argument. The naming committee’s top recommendation was North Star, so that’s what we should pick. If the board truly wanted to respect the process, though, why not listen to the votes of public in its process?
Board member Julie Craig worried that people don’t always turn out as we want. Potential revelations about a person after whom a school is named could thus prove awkward. Somehow, we don’t think it’s likely that the closets of Reid or Seems are filled with skeletons. And if the name must be changed, so what?
The name of the school may not matter all that much compared to other decisions the board makes. Keep this in mind: It’s the same people who marshaled these arguments who make those decisions, too.