What’s Right About GRPS? Ask The Child

May 9, 2005
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Fear mongering usually proves to be an effective method to at least get the public’s attention (a tactic used by some daily newspaper headline writers trying to scare up circulation), but general discussion and or debate of the facts provides for cooling tempers and rational decisions. It is particularly important to model such deliberation in an educational institution or forum, and it is particularly disappointing that such was not the case for Grand Rapids Public Schools last week. It is more grievous that GRPS board member and former board President James Rinck prefers to bask in 60-second sound bites of no value, rather than consider the lessons of his years (and years) of board experience, which might proffer enough insight to propose rational discussion. Especially Rinck.

While soon-to-be-laid-off bus drivers and other school employees chose to declare their displeasure with the board’s decision to privatize services with verbally abuse and irrational declarations (in a house of education) rather than civilized comment, attorney Rinck fanned the flames.

The worst of it was recorded when a Creston student noted she (and others) have just three choices for electives and fears “the kids at Forest Hills are learning so much more than we are.”  She told the board, “If you have to privatize to make things better, them I’m glad you’re doing it.” That this child showed courage in the face of a virulent crowd to make her comment is an understatement. That she modeled the best in citizenship and debate was apparently lost in the heat of that meeting, even by Rinck. Especially Rinck. The child was booed, and should have been applauded in this land of learning.

Disgusting? One might worry that this momentary incident is the definitive moment, the example of what this school system has become, and if so, fear is deserved and loathing for the board justified. The Creston student is the example of leadership where few show it.

Perhaps those in attendance, perhaps those “serving” on the board of education would do well to read the story of Miguel and Isabel Navarro, who were inducted to the West Michigan Business Hall of Fame last week. The former migrant workers battled far more “life” thrown at them in Grand Rapids than a layoff. Their “differences” with the majority community are stories of the ugly side of GR, and one not generally shared by those who were screaming at school board meetings — nor held as seeds of hatred by the honorees who moved above it and found their way.

The couple was honored for creation of the first Mexican bar in Grand Rapids and El Matador Tortilla Factory. A lingering lament, for statement here, is that their induction did not come sooner in the 16-year history of the Hall of Fame.

Comparatively, Rinck’s 60-second sound bites land him in the Hall of the Lame.    

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