Changes costly to taxpayers
What is happening with our Geauga County Park District? The more I read every week, the more concerned I get.
For the past several years there has been a revolving door of commissioners appointed by Geauga County Probate and Juvenile Court Judge Timothy Grendell. Now the management has suddenly disconnected itself and its finances from the Geauga County Auditor’s Office, apparently without planning for crucial operations like paychecks, health insurance, etc. Their phone system was also disconnected and has been down for a week, so there is no way for us to contact park employees and no way for them to handle usual park business until they get a new phone system (at additional taxpayer expense).
Setting up their own financial, record-keeping and phone systems will cost us taxpayers big bucks when all the same services were free with the county auditor’s office and phone system. This is no way to run such a big park system for our county. Who and what is the purpose behind all this major disruption? Stay tuned. We need to know.
The Geauga Park District with Geauga County Probate Judge Timothy Grendell as their leader has decided to take their finances in house. One must ask why? Is there something to hide? Our County Auditor Chuck Walder has been our only check on the judge’s spending habits. This move will require the hiring, by the park district, of a treasurer ($65,000 per year) and a fiscal officer for a job that was provided at no cost by the county. Remember the Geauga County Park District is a county park funded by us, the taxpayers. It seems that only a couple of county officials are willing to question the judge and his revolving door park board. Our auditor has done yeoman’s work and also our Prosecutor Jim Flaiz. Our commissioners, at least two of them, have largely sat on the fence. That must hurt. Please Geauga County voters and taxpayers, make yourself known. Contact your commissioners, write letters, go to meetings and demand accountability and fiscal responsibility.
Stand united behind DEI
Last week’s issue of the Times had an article recapping the June 20 Solon school board meeting and the debate over the PTA sponsored Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program that took place that morning. The article quoted many of the speakers; however, it neglected to mention the remarks made by Beachwood resident Jonathan Broadbent. While it is not necessary to include quotes from every speaker, Mr. Broadbent in particular stood out at the meeting as he is not a Solon resident (although he claims to have at one time owned a business in Solon).
Mr. Broadbent, it turns out, was present at the board meeting as a representative of the organization Protect Ohio Children, which is part of the Political Action Committee Ohio Value Voters. The goal of this group, as stated on its website, is to stop children from getting “comprehensive sex education” and “radical indoctrination” via DEI programs. Ultimately, they seek to replace school board members and other school administrators who encourage diversity and inclusion through a “tsunami strategy” of bombarding school board meetings and state legislative hearings.
If you look at the Protect Ohio Children website, you will find that Solon is just one of many schools that this group has targeted for its “tsunami.” Other schools include Chagrin Falls, Beachwood, Rocky River and Hudson. This is a statewide operation being implemented to censor educators and ultimately pass bills which will dictate what teachers can and cannot teach in their classrooms.
The parents opposing DEI in Solon are claiming to just want transparency. However, a deep dive into the Protect Ohio Children website reveals that this is just a stepping stone – once they have their hands on the curriculum, their goal is to find elements in it that they can reject and threaten the board and administration with.
Perhaps this is why the parents who spoke at the meeting about wanting to see the curriculum declined to meet with the Solon High School administration when they were personally invited to review it with them last spring. Clearly they are not truly interested in the material, as is also highlighted by the fact that one of the protestors’ own husband is on the PTA’s DEI committee and another one’s high school student is an enthusiastic participant in the program.
I’d like the residents of Solon to think about who they’d like to have present in their schools – qualified teachers and administrators who care about their students and a PTA who aims to bring the student body together by celebrating diversity and inclusion, or a lobbyist whose goal is to divide the community to advance his own political agenda.
DEI promotes understanding
The July 8/9 issue of the Times couldn’t be clearer in making a strong case for diversity, equity and inclusion (known as DEI) programs in our schools. The story included a feature on the Solon Schools’ DEI programs (“Parents raise questions on district diversity, equity program”). The op-ed section included a column expressing confusion about what constitutes cultural appropriation (“Rules unclear on appropriating culture”).
People have a lot of questions, and that’s a good thing. Intellectual curiosity is critical in understanding the world around us. It’s essential for new ideas and innovation.
With regard to the article about Solon City School District’s DEI programs, criticism seems to be focused on the high school programs. Last year, our teachers led monthly workshops on a variety of DEI topics, based on feedback from a student climate survey. These lessons were intended to guide students in considering diversity in different dimensions. They gave students concepts to think about as they become young adults.
The column about cultural appropriation raised several questions about art, food and fashion. This is a difficult subject to navigate. Who is allowed to wear a sombrero? Who can wear a qipao to prom? Where is the line between appreciation and appropriation? Sometimes there are no easy answers, but perhaps one general guideline is to treat all cultures with respect, without reducing them to stereotypical costumes or products to be consumed.
Thanks to Solon schools’ commitment to DEI programs, our children are learning about topics like this from a young age. Doing so will help them navigate concepts like cultural appropriation, and to consider intent and context. This will benefit our children as they get older and learn about more complex issues surrounding equity and inclusion. When our children encounter people from backgrounds different from their own, they will know to regard them as full human beings and not as caricatures. They will be better teammates, partners, leaders and citizens of the world.
We all have questions about DEI topics. In seeking answers, all of us can do our part by being open minded, educating ourselves and engaging in dialogue to increase understanding.