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Why more people need to be involved with Eldred’s Board of Education

By Griffin Major
December 23, 2015

As an involved student and Eldred community member, I am interested in the impact of the community on the actions of our board of education. This interest has led me to do extensive research, using the meeting minutes for the last five years. The data suggest that when there is more community participation, a more democratic and efficient process takes place.

Community participation takes two forms: attending board meetings and casting informed votes. Low community participation can result in dangerous outcomes, such as limited diversity. The data from the last five years indicate that community turnout and meeting length tend to rise and fall with each other: when there is high turnout, the meetings are longer. When more people are at the meetings, more debate, discussion, presentations and perspectives are explored, which takes up more time. When there is low turnout, these unique ideas cannot be expressed.

Looking at the years from 2010 to October of 2015, we can see the negative effects that the lack of diversity has on our system. In 99 meetings over these five years, the board voted unanimously 444 times out of 449 (including motions to adjourn). If the board members were actively representing various parts of the community, their votes would not be the same 98.8% of the time. In our community, made up of unique and different-thinking people, shouldn’t there be more than five contested votes?

This suggests that the community is not involved enough to hold the board accountable. Indeed, these unanimous votes have led some people to believe that decisions are being made before the public meeting. For example: in April of 2012, one community member made a public comment that many people believe things “happen in the dark,” which is why the community does not wish to get involved. People will refrain from speaking up if they believe they do not have a voice.

Aside from unanimous voting, the low interest shown in the board of education process makes the board seat seem undesirable. In the 15 board elections from 2000 to 2015, 11 candidates won because they ran unopposed. Having an election which gives the community only one option is dangerous because people are unable to pick which candidate represents their interests the best. This is bad for the people and bad for democracy.