counter statistics

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Good Editorial On a Nutjob School Board Member in Prior Lake


Lind's actions bode ill for Prior Lake-Savage district.

Last update: January 4, 2008 - 5:44 PM

To some in Prior Lake-Savage, school board member-elect Chris Lind is a hero for sharing his abstinence-only, anti-gay views with students. To others, he is a proselytizing bigot and disgruntled ex-employee who was rightly dismissed from a school district job.

Either way, the controversy around Lind has not been good for the suburban school district. The 44-year-old former teacher and self-described conservative Christian is now threatening legal action against a district he pledged to help lead. In a recent letter to the district, Lind asked for a monetary settlement (in lieu of a lawsuit) over his dismissal. That raises serious concerns about his judgment and his reasons for running.

His election also raises the question: What made more than 3,000 voters support someone who had been fired for improper interaction with students?

Last June, Superintendent Tom Westerhaus and the board terminated Lind, who worked as a hallway and parking lot supervisor. During the previous year, there were complaints about conversations Lind held with students about sexual orientation, both on and off campus. He was warned several times, reprimanded and once suspended. But an investigation by the board found that he continued to discuss sexuality with students, including once saying "Today is National Pick On Lesbians Day.'' That, said the board, was the last straw, and he was terminated.

He sounds quite creepy.

After losing his job, Lind ran for school board and won. Westerhaus resigned, effective in June, understandably explaining that he did not want to work for a community that elected someone he had fired. A popular and effective superintendent, hundreds of residents wanted him to stay.

When Lind joins the board later this month, relationships with the administration, staff and fellow board members (some of whom voted to terminate him) will be strained at best. Surely under such circumstances, his ability to be an effective school leader will be compromised.

In addition, it was hypocritical for Lind to run on a platform of saving local taxpayers' money, while planning to cost the district even more through a lawsuit or settlement.

The controversy is also a cautionary tale for voters. Several thousand Prior Lake-Savage citizens voted for Lind, most likely because of his stand on sex education and his opposition to a tax levy referendum. But by supporting him on those issues, did voters hastily overlook other warning signs -- including the well-researched, documented concerns of their own elected school board?

Given events since the November election, we cannot help but wonder if citizens in the south suburban district would make different choices if they were going to the polls today.

Prior Lake, like Upper St Clair, PA has probably learned to pay attention to school board races.