For quite some time now, Scottsdale’s contentious school board has reminded us of the fictitious one Meredith Willson wrote into the script of his classic musical set a century ago in his native Iowa, "The Music Man."
Bitter enemies for years, the River City school board argued about everything — even over what time it was — but they were all skeptical of con man Harold Hill’s claims that he was a music teacher. That is, until Hill gaslighted them by teaching them to sing in four-part barbershop harmony, which made them instant friends, constant vocalizing companions — and absent-minded about checking Hill’s credentials.
Scottsdale voters’ task Nov. 2 is to sort through the frequent bickering and school board meetings devoted to how much annual spending on legal fees is too much (when you’re well into six figures, it’s too much) and choose a majority of three members of the five-member board from among seven candidates.
Voters have three incumbents and four challengers to choose from. They have every chance to affirm the policies of the last several years or to bring in new faces. Whomever is chosen should have an eye for the needs of students, not the convenience of parents, and a grasp of budgetary issues — they are becoming quite intense as the Scottsdale school district struggles with affording to rebuild and to furnish schools.
Board members must be willing to support new Superintendent John Baracy, as he relies on his reputation as an innovator to implement needed reforms to internal structure as well as educational approach.
This is the first time in three elections that there has been so much voter choice for this important board. Two years ago, only three candidates ran for two seats. In 2000, there was no choice at all: Only three were on the ballot for three seats.
Ah, if only a couple of old songs and a box of straw hats would solve all of Scottsdale schools’ problems. It’s going to take much more than smooth talk to get the Scottsdale public schools on the right leadership track. It’s going to take wise voters willing to make sure their new school board makes it their practice to harmonize.
Otherwise, there’s going to be more trouble, right here in River City.