Home Opinion Editorials A big mess, but it can be cleaned up
A big mess, but it can be cleaned up
By The Baker City Herald Editorial Board
The situation with the Baker School Board, after a brief period of apparent tranquility during the summer, is today worse than ever.
Board member Kyle Knight, who was censured by three of his four colleagues in April, this week filed a civil rights lawsuit in which he seeks at least $700,000 in damages.
The defendants are the Baker School District, its superintendent, Walt Wegener, and board members Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson, two of the three members who voted to censure Knight (Andrew Bryan is the third; he is not a defendant).
While Knight’s lawsuit is pending, a local group is collecting signatures hoping to recall Burroughs and Henderson from office, a campaign precipitated in part by their votes to censure Knight.
In addition, the second recent mass-mailing from Burroughs and Henderson, a clumsy attempt to marginalize Knight and board member Jim Longwell and to cast them as pawns of shadowy right-wing carpetbaggers, arrived in district patrons’ mailboxes.
We believe much of this antagonism could have been avoided had board members, on both sides, resisted the urge to pursue their grievances against one another with such relentless vigor and instead, as the cliché goes, “focused on the kids.”
We don’t think any of this was, or today is, necessary. Certainly it has little to do with oversight of the school district.
But neither are we convinced anything’s been broken that can’t be mended.
It’s been obvious, almost since Knight’s first meeting as a board member, that in some matters under the school board’s bailiwick his viewpoint differs dramatically from those of the school board majority: Burroughs, Henderson and Bryan.
We elect people, not automatons, to represent us, and we understand that five people won’t agree about everything.
So what should happen now?
Burroughs, Henderson and Bryan should acknowledge that there is no validity to their claim that Knight, by talking to journalists about his disagreements with the board and district officials, violated the U.S. Constitution, exposed the school district to lawsuits and thus had to be muzzled by censure.
The board should revoke Knight’s censure.
Knight, in turn, should respond to that gesture of goodwill with one of his own, and withdraw his lawsuit.
And with Knight restored to his full rights as a board member, and thus able to fully represent his constituents, away goes the most compelling reason to recall Burroughs and Henderson.
Does everybody then live happily ever after?
To answer yes would be to indulge in extreme naivete.
But at least the quarrels in the future could happen in an appropriate place — school board meetings — rather than in the costly forums of the courthouse and the recall ballot.