Letter to the Editor

William Wayne Cipriano, Douglas County

To The Editor:

I read the “School Board Candidates Questionnaire” in the May 21st, 2020 issue of the Douglas County Herald. Then I called the newspaper to ask a few questions about the article. Then I read the “The Snoop” in the same issue that answered several of the questions I asked when I called. 

There are a few points I’d like to mention in no particular order if importance:

A knowledgeable, active and determined School Board can be of inestimable value to a school district interested in producing students that operate close to their intellectual potential. And that is, to my mind, far and away the most important function of a public school. Sure, there are many other facets of school that deserve attention, but a first-rate quality education for every student allowing, and in some or most cases driving students toward their potential is the primary, secondary, and tertiary job of public schools.

After we have accomplished that Educational Excellence, our School Board can begin to address items of lower priority. 

How do we know where we are on the educational excellence continuum without reliable testing and placing appropriate responsibility? When each graduating high school student can choose between full-rides to M.I.T. or Harvard, or choose to decline those offers and take up candle-making, we can give other issues the same importance we should attach Educational Excellence.

Reading over the “Questionnaire” responses I was struck by the unwillingness or inability to respond germanely to very simple questions in any but the most vague, the most political manner.

While a couple of responses involved increasing the opportunities for post-high school careers in the trades (a good solid idea), and two laudable efforts recalled to deal with student dyslexia, it seems the only really important issue was cameras on the school buses.

Some time ago I wrote an article suggesting how a candidate for the School Board might secure my vote: 1) retain the school bus system we now have; 2) spend public school funds only to DIRECTLY enhance Educational Excellence; 3) assure transparency of ALL School Board operations; and 4) build new only when repair/renovation is financially inappropriate. It seems, only fooling around with 1) matters much to any candidate, but it is their agenda, not mine.

Like many, I have weaseled out of attending school board meetings. And for the same reasons, I’d guess. They are far too congratulatory for every simple thing that has been done in the district, and far too secretive with those issues I feel are important. If I had attended more meetings I might have better information, but I didn’t attend and I doubt it would have helped me understand the controversies now extant.

Still, since there seems to be one overriding issue for all the candidates, let me ask a few “bus camera” questions.

For example, why not put all the barnyard hypocrisy aside and speak to the real concerns of those involved? 

Is the District afraid of being sued by some individual or group for negligence when a camera might have prevented a bad action or recorded it but did not do so because the District declined to install it?  

Are drivers afraid of having one small rule infraction captured on tape and blown up in importance to such a degree that their investment in buses and their livelihoods is endangered?

Let’s say we are convinced that cameras on the school buses are a good idea. How should they be deployed? The most important of said cameras in my opinion is to ensure any driver passing a stopped school bus loading or unloading students is arrested and sent to jail. The first time!

I have heard there are many other reasons cameras on buses are a good idea and might “help out” (recording bullying, roughhousing,  student molestation, etc) but if these are serious concerns, let’s get those cameras where they need to be: We need a camera in the back of the bus trained on the road behind to record the license plate and the face of the driver who goes on to pass a stopped bus. We need a camera by the protective “arm” capturing the image of the driver passing and the rear license plate if no front plate is on the vehicle. We need a camera recording the instrument panel of the bus to verify proper speed, turn signals, flashing lights, and so on. We need a camera mounted on the back of the bus cabin looking forward. We need a camera taking “close up” views of the driver to monitor questionable behavior. We need a camera recording the activity in the stairwell of the bus. And, we need as many additional cameras as necessary to scrutinize every possible location on a bus where improper behavior might take place and negligence might be accused if such cameras were missing.

Or… We could employ roving bus monitors – at least two on each bus to watch each other as well as the students and the drivers, each monitor possessing a portable camera to record “important” events.

And… We might need to place these cameras and/or monitors on every conveyance that transports students anywhere, anytime to spread that protection from negligence claims around, as well as to dissuade inappropriate behavior.

Or… We could rely on the owners, operators, and support personnel that have run our busing system for decades and decades (70 years?) with so few problems that I cannot recall even one of significance in the thirty-five years or so that we have been here. And, a very important “extra”, they have run that system far more inexpensively than any other school system around us operates theirs.

I believe that a camera placed on a school bus to enable us to toss into the slammer those dipsticks that pass stopped school buses loading or unloading students is an excellent expenditure of District funds.

I believe having cameras operating when students are not on board a bus is foolish.

I believe having school buses owned, maintained, and operated by our District is wasteful.

I believe that while lack of cameras, many many cameras, on each bus, might increase the probability of a negligence lawsuit brought against the District, our history of safely, efficiently, inexpensively, and “properly” achieving student transportation argues viably against camera installation.

And I believe that buying or irrevocably contracting to buy cameras to be placed on privately owned buses before collecting agreements from bus owners to do so is far beyond accepted business practice that I must have misunderstood when such was reported to me.

I do not know of any of the present School Board members except one who is not in this election and with whom I have not discussed any school board issues. Any knowledge or lack of knowledge concerning the upcoming School Board election or the School Board in general is based almost exclusively on what I have read in the Herald or heard on KKOZ radio. If the School Board wishes for me (or us) to know more, they should provide more information to the paper or the radio station.

The job of a school district is to provide Educational Excellence to its student body such that each student has a legitimate shot at approaching their potential. After that goal is reached, time, effort, and money can be “squandered” (to my mind) on other issues. I would support whoever gains these three Board seats as they readjust their priorities to place Educational Excellence in our public school FIRST, SECOND, and THIRD.

P.S. I don’t pay that much attention to food. Rosalie, however, does. She suggests that the Administrators, the Faculty, the Staff eat the same lunch at the same time as the students do every day. She further suggests that the Board join them for lunch once or twice a week – not just on chicken patty day.