Sheehan

Newbies get some schooling

Staff WriterDecember 16, 2009 

For a moment there, it looked as if the reporters were going to outnumber the supporters.

Nine folks - several of them on the clock for their organizations - gathered outside the Wake County school system's administration building to show the new board majority that they are loved.

Or something like that.

The rally, organized by Americans for Prosperity, was a new endeavor for the group known better for its anti-tax tea parties and anti-health care reform protests. It was local, and it was positive.

Which may have been why it was such a dud.

One of the rally organizers said most of their folks had already gone inside to snag a seat for the Tuesday school board meeting and jot their names down for the public comment period.

But as it turns out, the meeting was also packed with people who oppose the new majority's pledge to end the district's diversity policy, among other promises.

Fired up, the opponents had a lot to say.

In this, only its second meeting, the new majority finds itself on the receiving end of the same kind of vehemence and vitriol that used to be aimed at the previous board majority. Now the speakers are complaining about the new board's arrogance, the new board's tactics, the new board's evil intentions.

Note to new members: Don't forget how THAT turned out for the previous majority.

Leaving the meeting, I spoke with Chris Farr, who spoke at the rally in the absence of Americans for Prosperity's leader Dallas Woodhouse, who was in Washington for the day.

I was disappointed Woodhouse wasn't there. I wanted to ask him about his e-mail message summoning his troops for the rally. He'd warned about nefarious union organizers skulking around, spreading false rumors about the board's ruling coalition.

I looked for those union activists, but they must have been in the bathroom. Or else Woodhouse was referring to the N.C. Association of Educators - which ... is ... not ... a ...union.

There is no collective bargaining among state employees in North Carolina. As for arguments the NCAE is a super-powerful lobbying group, its members could barely get their own candidate for state schools superintendent elected several years ago.

Yep, that's some fearsome union.

But I digress.

Farr, whose former husband is the conservative lawyer working with the new majority, emphasized the new rulers have a mandate from the people. As someone who could not vote in the last election - the new members were elected from suburban districts - I find that talking point hard to stomach. My interests aren't reflected by the new board.

But then Farr said something that brought me up short. "You know," she said, "these new board members are not bad people. Give them a chance."

Fair enough.

Just so long as the new majority heeds its own campaign calls for open ears and open minds as well.

ruth.sheehan@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4828

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