Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: lauriegood@mac.com

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why don't more people run for the BOE?

A commenter on a previous post said:

The fact that no one would run for the seat Charles Reilly now holds speaks volumes about what the citizens think of our BOE. But I suppose you don't see it that way, now do you?

Setting aside the commenter's sarcasm, it's a legitimate question, and I do think about it from time to time.

I suspect there are many reasons people don’t run for the Board of Ed, and I suppose “what the citizens think of our BOE” could be one for some people. For others it could be the hours. Or the sheer size of the challenges. For some it’s too much responsibility. For some it may not be enough responsibility and they’re not comfortable working as part of a group. Some may not want to be criticized in the newspaper or on blogs or whatever. Some might be afraid of making a mistake. Some don’t like confrontation. Some choose other ways to make a difference in their world. Some feel they can’t possibly make a difference in a system they think is broken. Some have small children, so they don’t have time. Some have grown children, so they’re tired and want to enjoy their empty nest. Maybe a few have heard it described as a “thankless job.” Maybe others like to watch TV on Monday nights. Some people are happy to let others of their choosing handle it. Some are happy to let anyone (but them) handle it. And some just, plain and simple, do not care.

I’ve heard all those things and more, both before and after I was involved with the Board. Heck, I’ve probably said most of them myself, at one point or another. As a resident, it bothers me when no one shows up to run. It’s not the way things are “supposed” to work in a democracy. But it is what it is. Getting involved with an elected position is a personal choice that everyone makes for their own reasons.


Anonymous said...

Now, there was nothing sarcastic about my question. I was stating a fact. And you prove it by your litany of reasons why no one will run for the BOE.

In a panic, Charlie called around town to see if anyone would run. He feared a math moms might throw her hat in the ring at the last minute (God forbid someone who doesn't buy into Regina's vision for the future of education in our village). Charlie, being the noble protectorate of all things progressive, when he couldn't find someone, decided to run himself.

Not even those who want change are interested in joining the BOE. It is called, apathy. People have given up on the BOE and the district's administrators. This is not healthy but was brought on by the BOE itself.

Laurie said...

Sorry I mis-read it your question as being sarcastic. (Can you possibly state a "fact" about MY feelings? Hmmm) But I answered you anyway: Do I agree that the fact Mr. Reilly ran unopposed speaks volumes about anything? No, I do not.

Apathy is not a reason itself. I think you would agree. There can be many reasons FOR apathy, but I choose not to generalize as to its source for all Ridgewood residents. I think that is presumptuous.

I'm sure what you say is correct for some people. But I've also heard different reasons (aka my "litany") from others. I've met people who really have no firm reason...they just can't be bothered and are quite content to remain blissfully unaware. And, shocking as you might find this, there are some who are happy with the status quo on the Board.

Wouldn't you say political apathy has become the American way? Or maybe it has been for generations. I hardly think Ridgewood is unique in this respect. No, we're just run-of-the-mill...

Anonymous said...

Kudos to anyone who dares to run for the BOE and is willing to have people bash them anonymously online. Some people can't stomach it, nothing wrong with that. But I appreciate your hard work even though I don't always agree with you, I respect that you are up front about your opinions and you try to explain.

Anonymous said...

I do not appreciate Ms. Goodman's self serving remarks here nor anywhere else she makes them. The BOE has done a disgraceful job. Better candidates have run here and there, but not nearly enough. Apathy IS the answer Laurie as indicated by the tiny voter turnout for the last election and only half of those that bothered chose to flip a lever for the BOE spot. That pretty much sums up the public's view of the BOE...DISGRACEFUL. But I'm sure you'll come back with some snappy retort Laurie. Something that might even look legitimate to the casual observer.

Laurie said...

Look, I already agreed that there's apathy. And I also agreed that some people think the Board does a terrible job. I'm sorry that I don't accept your speaking for the entire "public," but how can I?

I'm not trying to be self-serving, honest. I think it is a worthwhile conversation to consider the reasons for low voter turnout or low "candidate turnout." Ascribing it ALL to public dissatisfaction with the particular people in office doesn't make sense, because the low turnout is perennial. Going back decades. If one researches the topic online, one learns that voter turnout has declined steadily since the 1960s. Does this mean that in every election, the public has always been dissatisfied with whomever was elected? I think that says as much about the process itself as it does about both the candidates and the voters.

Remarkably, Ridgewood's voter turnout tends to be higher than the average. (I don't have the numbers at hand right now.)

But putting aside all this voter turnout, candidate interest stuff, even though I think it's fascinating, I will say that I hear what you are saying and I would be happy to hear more, and more specifics, about what you think I or the Board should be doing differently. I invite you to post here or feel free to email me or call me or meet with me. (As much as I believe in blogging, online communication, etc., the anonymous forum isn't always the best way for two people to hear each other.)

Anonymous said...

The state of affairs in Ridgewood have forced our family to choose. We are just biding our time until we can sell and put Ridgewood in our rearview mirror. For over 15 years, our family has done its best, from voting, volunteering, buying in-town and contributing. The elites have used us until we were wrung dry and can no longer afford to be here. And all along, the BOE and VC taxes and fees shot up while quality and services dropped. 2 years ago during the revaluation, the appraisers deemed out $500k house ought to pay 85% of our neighbor's $1.1mm taxes. This past year, the school bond and new budget push us too far. (Yes, I suppose I could get a new job that pays more for men nearing 60 that pays more - wish me luck finding one.) It's best that we choose quality of life over fighting with the liberal borrow & spend mentality that Ridgewood has adopted. In the end, I agree that it's apathy. I'm tired of caring about a town I used to proudly call home.

Laurie said...

I truly am sorry for how your situation may not be the way you wanted it to be, but, respectfully, I do not ascribe to the thinking that some secret club of "elites" is masterminding this Village. And I do not agree that the "quality and services" provided by the school district has "dropped." You are right that some things are changing in Ridgewood. Each of us responds in whatever way is most meaningful for us. I'm involved to do what I can to help us (or at least our schools) through, because I feel this is the way I should respond. Others respond with different efforts, others provide running commentary and others might leave.

I wish I had a better response for you.