An error in judgment

Melissa Stagnaro

I did a bad thing last night. I lost my cool for a minute at the Oxford School Board meeting, and was apparently a little too honest with the board member who happened to ask me why I was frustrated by the proceeding.

My response wasn’t prompted by my professional role at The Evening Sun, but by the fact that I’m both a graduate of Oxford Academy and a current district resident. And I felt like I’d had the wool pulled over my eyes by the board and administration. I allowed them to convince me to cast my vote in favor of the Phase I capital project by promising to renovate and restore the historic Middle School building and keep it as an educational institution. But here they are, once again, talking about reconfiguring grades and – yes, there was mention of that single Pre-K through 12 campus idea – yet again.

Now, when I say “they,” I really mean the board president, as she acts as the board’s spokesperson. Some of the other board members were visibly uncomfortable with the discussion. And the board member in question did state for the record that she didn’t think the highly unpopular “Option 3” (unified campus) should be considered further because of the public’s previous response to the idea. But I was still shocked and appalled that the topic had not only raised its ugly head again. Especially since it hadn’t appeared on the agenda I’d received. Or the one I’d picked up when I entered the room, for that matter.

Just as anyone, I’m entitled to my opinion. But I work hard to put those feelings aside in my reporting. I’ve gotten used to compartmentalizing my opinions from the bare-bones facts of an issue, not only because it’s part of my job – which it is – but also because I feel very strongly that the facts of the case should stand on their own merit. That stakeholders should have the information they need to make an informed decision about whatever matter is being discussed, but whatever decision they arrive at should be theirs. So I strive to be unbiased, and give both sides, or as many sides of the issue as possible.

I save my opinions, thoughts and beliefs for a more appropriate forum: my columns, blogs and, everyone’s favorite, thumbs.

Despite the fact that I’ve done just that for well over a year – through the first go around when the board was flirting with the idea of demolishing a wing of that venerable old building, when community members were up at arms about proposed budget cuts, controversy over the superintendent’s contract, etc. – my little outburst last night could cost me. Because those that think I have been overly critical of the administration or the board and their actions in the past, are already trying to use it as ammunition against me.

It’s too late to take back my words, and I now realize that I made an error in judgment. But I’m not the only one.

Because, what Oxford’s school board still fails to realize, recognize or understand is that it isn’t my words that have people up at arms – It is their actions.

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