Calling All Bridge Builders (Part 2)

Jason Barney's Thoughts on Gilbert Public Schools (Continued From April, Now in July)

July 2014

I wrote Part 1 of this back in April 2014:

I'm adding to the above commentary based on posts I saw recently on Facebook asking where I stand politically, with the current board members, and past and present endorsements.

I believe strongly in conservative principles and typically support conservative candidates and issues. For more on the importance of conservative values and what they mean to me, click here. However, I also believe in supporting candidates who are Bridge Builders with the humility, kindness, and communication skills required to listen carefully and solve problems through outreach and understanding. For example, our own Mayor John Lewis is one of the best examples I know at leading with those principles. You can try all you want, your not going to pry unkind words about someone out of John Lewis, no matter how deserved those words might be. His is a style I aspire to even though I do fall short.

When it comes to schools and education, I think I still align very much with my conservative friends in the belief that education is one of the central and essential foundations of a free society. I have aggressively and exhaustively worked to support our local Gilbert Public Schools District in many ways including consistent support for overrides, work on the strategic plan, work on the budget committee, and the protection of critical programs such as music. Again, see Part 1 for more. Because overrides are an extra tax, and to make it worse, the worst kind at that (property tax), my support for overrides has caused some to question my conservative credentials. But, that hits at the heart of how I think. Just like I said above, there is an appropriate level of public investment and education is one of the most valuable areas we can invest in. Local choices made by the local people most affected are the best choices. Overrides are a local investment in local education. In fact, under current law, an override is the only practical option we have for making a substantial local investment choice for our schools. I believe I can be a conservative, expect accountability and restraint in public spending, and still be willing to invest more in our local schools if I think there is a need and worthy return on investment.

Promoting conservative principles doesn’t mean I have to bash friends who see it differently. And, promoting an override because I want my local class sizes small and music programs left intact doesn’t mean I need to go bash my conservative friends who see that differently. For those who would like to see me join the chorus of angry bashing and repudiation of Staci, Daryl, and Julie, I’m not going to do that. Just as I can say about Jill and Lily, I have too much history working with each of them to use “blunt instrument” broad-brush appraisals and dismissals. I did not endorse Staci or Daryl in their first campaigns, but I have worked with them since including on the override campaign last year. I collected signatures for Julie and voted for her because she shared the same concerns I had (and still have) that Common Core could dilute our local autonomy over curriculum and increase pressure to squeeze out programs I think are critical like music and the arts. I endorsed EJ during that election after working a year and a half together on the strategic plan. I was also very supportive of Jill after working side by side for years protecting music programs from cuts. (See Oct 29, 2012 AZ Republic Article on endorsements.) But, if I’m going to itemize concerns I have with Staci, Daryl, and Julie (which of course I do have), then I have to itemize my concerns with Jill, Lily, EJ, and the other candidates as well (which of course I do have). If I publicly criticize those three, then I have to publicly criticize FB posts, Podium Speeches, letters to the newspaper, and board room outbursts I've seen that are not as dignified, respectful, fair, truthful, or constructive as they could/should have been. I don't have time to be immersed in that fray and it isn't my way of problems solving anyway. To go negative would just become a major time vacuum for me because of the bazillion hours of emails and FB posts it would require in the aftermath. Worse, it would be counter the very Bridge Building and constructive collaboration I'm trying to promote. When I have concerns, if I can find the time, I try to address them privately and directly with the individuals and have done that on several occasions. In public, I’d rather focus on the positive things I want to see and encourage existing and future board members to aspire to that.

So, it is way too simplistic to broad-brush me into a cliché box. I’m not a right wing whacko education hater because I pushed the “LIKE” button on Rabid Fringe and consider others who have done the same to be friends. I just want to be part of the dialog in hopes of finding a way to bridge the gap, a gap that has unfortunately only gotten wider over time. By engaging, I understand the concerns better and find that often we share the very same concerns. I’m not a leftist socialist because I supported the overrides. I just want my schools to be as strong as possible. I am a conservative who reaches out, tries to listen and understand, wants to make smart and strategic decisions for our local community, and am willing to form my own beliefs even on politically dicey/risky things like overrides. There are good and sincere people with thoughtful views on all sides of the complicated issues we face. Regarding the current board, all five have done things I both supported and disagreed with. All five have made meaningful contributions with the best of intentions. All five have made and will continue to make mistakes. I will continue as I have done. Critique privately. Then publicly encourage all five to focus on the issues I listed in April on Part 1: strengthen our schools, center on student achievement, empower teachers, build bridges, listen, collaborate, etc.

My only official endorsement right now for school board is Reed Carr because I believe he brings this balance. I regret that some have attempted to paint him as either radical-right or too-far-left by painting me that way and using my endorsement against him. I am not either extreme, and neither is Reed. We just care about our schools and want to support them in the most responsible and collaborative way possible. If you still have you doubts, call either one of us directly.

If you have any more questions, feel free to call or email.

Thank You,
Jason Barney
April 2014