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Declare Your Independence From Tyrannies Big and Small!
Written by Jeff Horn   
Monday, 04 July 2011 00:00
On this Independence Day, I wanted to bring you some words from our country's Declaration of Independence and illustrate to you how these words, penned by Thomas Jefferson over 230 years ago are relevant to our lives in the DeForest area today.

Jefferson writes:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

Now, Jefferson was talking about King George and his governors in the 13 colonies, but the premise is no less true today in DeForest, Windsor, Vienna, Leeds, and Morrisonville.  Our village, town, and school boards derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.  They have power because we the people consent to it.

Taxation Without Representation

We all learned in school that the reason that the colonies declared their independence from the British crown was "taxation without representation".  In a small way, we have that going on right here in the DeForest area.  The majority of your property taxes go to pay for our DeForest Area School District (DASD).  If you rent, those taxes are paid for as part of your rent, paid to the district by your landlord.  If you purchase goods in the district, part of the cost of those goods goes to the district as part of the property tax on the buildings in which you shop.  All of the people of DeForest contribute to the DASD in some way.

Are we being represented?  Sadly, it seems these days we are not!  While we elect members of the board of education, the board has chosen to operate by something called Policy Governance.  Policy Governance is a way of governing by consensus building in which the board determines through making policies some Ends or Goals it wants to achieve.  It then hands over control of the Means to achieve those Ends to an unelected superintendent.  As long as that superintendent achieves those Ends without violating constraints the board has placed on him, they believe they are governing well.

The Tyranny of Consensus

That may work out great for the board of education and their relationship with superintendent Jon Bales.  In fact, they have all gotten along swimmingly for the last six years (at least).  We have already pointed out that they have voted nearly unanimously for the last six years.

Board member Mike Hirsch said recently:

"I think there is a real need to outline the process of what we do ... we end up with a unanimous vote most of the time because of the process we use, We don't like operating with a sense of crisis."

As though the community would look at any dissent on their part as unwanted crisis and sign that something is wrong.  Quite the contrary!  We look at their refusal to vote their consciences as a sign that something is wrong.  However much consensus building might help the board to "get along" with each other and the superintendent, one thing is for certain, it is not helping them represent us, the governed, from whom they derive their power.

Mr. Hirsch, we all have to do things we don't like.  If, from time to time, the board needs to operate in an environment where there is a touch of controversy, that's what we elected the board to do.

This is precisely the problem with Policy Governance in a democratically elected board like our school board.  We hold the board responsible to represent us.  We expect them to deal with the Means by which goals are achieved and not forfeit them to some unelected bureaucrat like Dr. Jon Bales.

It is the Means that most of us encounter when dealing with the district.  It is the Means a parent encounters when they have a problem with a teacher.  It is the Means that a parent deals with when they get a call about their child from the principal.  It is the Means that a parent deals with when getting an IEP approved for their special needs child.  It is the Means that a taxpayer is dealing with when their tax levee increases.

It is the Means that we want our elected representatives to address when we have a problem.

Yet they hand those Means off without a thought so they can all "get along".

Not only have they ceded control over the means by which things are accomplished, they even refuse to have meaningful debate over what ends are to be accomplished.  As we've pointed out, they have voted unanimously on nearly every issue before them for at least six years.  Board member Steve Tenpas has been quoted as saying that he will not speak to an issue on his own, but that the board will only speak "as a board".

While Policy Governance technically allows for heated debate prior to a final vote, we almost never see it happen in practice.  Many of the ends and goals they come up with are not really things anyone has any question about.  They are generalities and goals that are nearly universally accepted... like mom, baseball, and apple pie.

Only the "consensus" decision is promoted and the appearance of any dissent is removed from the record, because that wouldn't promote speaking "as a board".  We the people of DASD do not vote for a board, we vote for individual board members.  We expect their voices to represent our voices.  We expect them to have disagreements because we the people have disagreements.

What is more, the consensus that is built must be being built behind closed doors.  We don't see the evidence of any disagreements aired in public.  Maybe this is just the board not wanting to put on display how the sausage is made, but it's disconcerting.  What our board does is supposed to be done in open.  That includes any disagreements, even if they are ultimately assuaged through consensus building.

The lack of dissent also gives the false sense that everything in the school district is going just fine.  Nothing to see here, just move along.  So the public, feeling everything must be just fine, doesn't show up for board of education meetings.  The illusion that the board is handling everything causes people to not run for school board and so no new blood is brought into the mix.  The result: the same players playing the same Policy Governance game.

Policy Governance and consensus based governing put undue pressure on any minority opinion to "just get along" and "prevent a crisis".  Mike Hirsch basically admitted that the board does not like to operate in a sense of crisis.  We don't want crisis for crisis' sake, but we also don't want to avert a crisis at any cost which is what we have here.  We have board harmony at the expense of our liberty.

Throw Off The Yoke of Tyranny

We deserve more!  We deserve to be represented.  Policy Governance may be a great way for the board and superintendent to get along with each other, but it utterly fails as a way to represent the needs, values and opinions of the community.  Policy Governance is a wolf in sheep's clothing.  It lures us in with the ideal of board harmony and "getting along", while stripping us of the power we hold as citizens of a democratic republic.

When asked about the "heat" in the district over administrative salary increases, board member David Miller stated:

"When people lead with attacks on people's integrity, it's understandable that some of us might get defensive."

It is not people's integrity that we are railing against, but the un-democratic governance methods that our board has put in place that have stripped us of our voice.  Consensus is not democracy.  Board harmony at any cost is not an American value.

The board members are not tyrants, but we find Policy Governance tyrannical.  Just as our forefathers threw off the yoke of King George and his taxation without representation, we the citizens of the DeForest Area School District must throw off the yoke of oppressive Policy Governance on our school board.  The board of education takes our taxes, but refuses to give us a voice.  It has placed the superintendent and board harmony on a pedestal and left us unrepresented!

This independence day know that Americans must be vigilant so that the same excesses that plagued our forefathers are held at bay today.  Taxation without representation still lives today, but it's more subtle and more insidious.

Luckily today we do not need to take to arms to throw off the yoke of a tyrant like Policy Governance.  Today we can simply vote to replace our representatives with ones that will not buy into the Policy Governance groupthink.  We must get involved!

Have a safe and fun Independence Day, but know that as an American you must stand guard daily to preserve your precious Freedom and Liberty.  Daily we must declare our independence from tyrants big and small.  The tyranny of consensus and Policy Governance here in DASD may be small in the grand scheme of things, but it is a tyranny nonetheless.

Declare your independence from tyrannies big and small!  Be vigilant!  Enjoy the fireworks!

 

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