Make Progress, Not War: Thompson's Golden Opportunity for Change

Cooperation is the key to success. It sounds trite, I know. In my world, most major arguments are settled with wrestling matches or food fights. In grown-up land, however, those aren’t always viable options (or are they?). No, adults have to learn to work together even when they don’t want to. Maybe especially when they don’t want to.

While all school boards have their ups and downs, the Thompson Board of Education has had a particularly hard time cooperating recently. Their meetings are often chaotic, public comments are often invective rather than helpful, and the board has been all but paralyzed by a web of interpersonal and political issues too complex to dig into here.

The end result has been a lack of progress. This has fueled frustration and heightened stress levels, both of which have—wait for it—led to a continuing lack of progress. I think I finally understand the “vicious cycles” my parents are always alluding to.

Yesterday, however, Thompson’s school board took what I hope will be the first of many steps toward a healthier, more orderly, and more productive situation. At an annual board retreat (which itself generated a rather shocking—and largely unfounded—amount of controversy), board members agreed to set up training on Robert’s Rules of Order and receive instruction on applicable state laws.

This isn’t the first time the board has attempted to restore order. During the summer, Board President Bob Kerrigan called for a renewed focus on students’ needs and continued improvement in board members’ working relationships. He has also attempted to move meetings back to strict, formal protocols in recent months.

Unfortunately, these efforts have done little to quell the frequent disruptions and sometimes explosive arguments that have plagued board proceedings for some time. Both “sides” (itself a rather unhealthy way of viewing what is meant to be a non-partisan board) still have work to do.

This time around, I hope every member of the board makes (and sticks with) a personal commitment to do better. If not, perhaps next year’s retreat should be a therapy session. Yes, it’s been done before. No, I’m not kidding.

Remember, you don’t have to like each other to be respectful, and you don’t have to agree with one another on every issue to accomplish great things for Thompson’s kids. So think outside the box. Move forward. Come up with real, lasting solutions for your students. Whatever you do, do it together.

The community is counting on Thompson’s elected leadership to be professional, set their previous disagreements aside, and focus relentlessly on their students. This is their chance to do just chance to do just that.