Archive for Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Retiring principal, board member clash on bond issue

West Junior High School educator says lone vote against school package is ‘political pandering at its finest’

December 11, 2002


If Jack Davidson runs for re-election to the Lawrence school board, there's one vote he shouldn't count on.

Mick Lowe, principal of West Junior High School, sent a blistering e-mail to Davidson, ripping into him for opposing the board's proposed $59 million bond issue for school construction and renovation. The strongly worded message was just one more example of the strong feelings the proposal has generated among officials and district patrons.

"It was political pandering at its finest, aimed at playing to the sentiments of (the) no-growth, no-tax-at-any-cost element of our community that is dedicated to preserving the past with little regard for the future," Lowe wrote to Davidson.

Davidson, the only board member to vote against the bond-issue plan that will appear on the April 1 ballot, said Tuesday he didn't appreciate political advice from a district administrator.

"The administration has no right to tell me to run or not to run," Davidson said. "I know they're aggravated, but I do represent a certain group of people in this community."

School administrators typically shy from the sort of confrontational message to board members that Lowe sent Davidson. Lowe is retiring as principal after this school year.

For his part, Davidson said he hadn't decided whether to seek another four-year term.

Davidson has consistently supported parts of the bond issue, specifically spending $28 million to rebuild South Junior High School and expand Lawrence Alternative High School. But he voted against the complete package because, he said, the overall cost of the bond issue was too high and the plan would close three elementary schools.

In his e-mail and a subsequent interview, Lowe said he considered Davidson a "hypocrite" because he supported full funding of his pet projects while berating his colleagues for earmarking money for other buildings.

"You essentially left your colleagues to do the 'heavy lifting' while you watch from the high ground. Politics is the art of compromise, and you totally missed the mark in that regard," Lowe wrote.

Lowe also criticized Davidson for sticking to a campaign pledge to not support elementary school consolidation. Lowe was put off by Davidson's comment about "promises made are promises kept."

"As a leader," Lowe said, "the problem isn't going away by simply hanging on to platitudes."

Davidson said he viewed the e-mail from Lowe as an indirect message from the district's administration.

"He needs to understand, I consider it a statement of the administration," Davidson said.

Lowe said that wasn't the case.

"That was absolutely my thoughts, my reaction," he said. "I didn't consult anyone else."

Lowe also sent the e-mail to the six other board members and Supt. Randy Weseman.

Scott Morgan, school board president, said he would defend any person's right to speak his or her mind.

"That goes for anybody in the district," Morgan said.

Morgan said he viewed the message as one man's opinion about an important topic. It's not an indirect attack on Davidson by the superintendent's office, Morgan said.

"Jack should know this administration well enough to know that's not the way Randy would operate," Morgan said.

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