The school board directors who support the $113-million plan to update the high school have consistently claimed that their plan reflects what the community wants. Their plan, they claim, is the result of an open, inclusive planning process that has engaged the community extensively, providing ample opportunity for everyone to express a point of view.
The critics of the plan, however, say that the planning process was flawed. While everyone may have had an opportunity to express a point of view, it was the school board alone that decided which of those views were acted upon, and which were ignored. This discretion, the critics argue, allowed those school board directors who favored a more grandiose high school to advance their plan over the concerns of the majority of Mt. Lebanon residents.
So who is right? Does the majority of Mt. Lebanon support or oppose the $113-million plan?
In a democratic society, the only way to know for sure is to vote on it. But our community has not been given the opportunity to vote. So how can we measure support for the plan?
One way is to look at a slice of our community that is more easily measured, say only those people who sent email to the school board. If we counted each person’s emailed opinion as a vote of sorts, the counts for and against the plan might tell us something about where our community stands.
School board director James Fraasch has done just that
. Reviewing the email sent to the school board about the plan since January 1, 2010, he counted email from 411 residents in total. Of them, 308 were against the $113-million plan; only 103 were for it. That’s 75 percent – three to one – against the plan.
The supporters of the plan will have a hard time explaining away this three-to-one rejection of their plan. Even recognizing that email counts are likely to be a biased representation of the community as a whole, it would take a whole lot of bias to turn the school board’s claimed majority support into the observed three-to-one rejection of their plan. So this evidence makes the notion that most residents of Mt. Lebanon support the plan harder to believe.
As further evidence of broad rejection of the plan, there is the petition movement. On April 5, 2010, petitioners submitted over 3,300 signatures to the school board.
Every signature represents a Mt. Lebanon resident who supports renovating the high school
but rejects the $113-million plan. Has any petition movement in Mt. Lebanon history garnered such broad support in such a short time?
Again, the plan’s supporters are going to have a hard time explaining away this evidence. If the only opposition to the plan was from a few loud dissenters, where did those 3,300 people come from?
More importantly, aren’t those 3,300 people Mt. Lebanon residents? Aren’t they deserving of representation by the school board, too? Yet what action has the board taken to acknowledge or compromise with these people? Do the school board directors who support the plan think that a growing movement of over three thousand people is just going to disappear because they pretend it doesn’t exist?
It isn’t. Sooner or later, those school board directors are going to have to start treating those people like constituents.
Let hope, for our community’s sake, that they start sooner rather than later.
Labels: high school renovation, james fraasch, mt. lebanon school board, petition