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School district critics pass on running for board

By: Liz Kellar
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Election season is upon us. The filing period for the local races officially closed Aug. 8 for the Western Placer Unified School board of trustees and Aug. 13 for city council, since Mayor Primo Santini has chosen not to run for re-election. I watched the Placer County Candidate Watch Web page almost obsessively, checking it daily. On Aug. 9, when all school district candidates were officially posted, I couldn’t believe my eyes. No one had filed to run against incumbents Paul Long and Paul Carras. To say that I was baffled would be a major understatement. Even before I came to work for the News Messenger, I had followed the travails of the school district closely. I am the parent of a 13-year-old who currently attends Twelve Bridges Middle School. When we moved back to Lincoln nearly three years ago after a lengthy absence, I was looking forward to my son attending the new high school that was being planned. Like many other Lincoln residents, I was stunned and dismayed when the district’s financial troubles forced the postponement of that new facility. I came on board the News Messenger as its editor almost exactly a year ago and since then, I have strived to cover school news as it happens – the good, the bad and the ugly. In these pages, I have reported the allegations of financial mismanagement that resulted in a grand jury investigation and in a lawsuit filed by the school district against its principal architect, NTD. And throughout the year, I have listened to many Lincoln residents complain bitterly about the school district. Rumors have flown alleging fraud and even embezzlement. Many residents of Twelve Bridges and Lincoln Crossing have been particularly vitriolic in their disdain for the district administration. So why did none of these district critics choose to run for the school board? Long said he found it “extremely surprising” that no challengers filed for the two trustee seats. Carras attributed the lack of challengers to a possible perception that the current board is doing a better job. Too, he said, the attention of some district critics might have shifted in the current economic downturn. So is it complacency? Is it the feeling that maybe, after all, the school board is doing an OK job? Is it just that residents have more important things to worry about? That may be true for some residents. But for others, the explanation is far more troubling. Simply put, it is easier to complain than to get involved. We all know people who spend a lot of time and energy bashing the powers that be and yet don’t even bother to vote on Election Day. They will tell you that their vote doesn’t count; that there’s nothing they can do to change the status quo. That’s not much of an argument, in my book. On the neighborhood Web forums for Twelve Bridges and Lincoln Crossing, I have read a disturbing sentiment. Some of the residents posting on these forums see it this way: they are leaving this stinking town as soon as they can regain some of their lost equity. They feel betrayed by the school district, which they feel promised them a fancy new high school and then reneged. They feel betrayed by the city, which is suffering from its rapid boom and equally rapid slump. They are disaffected and are cutting whatever tenuous ties they had to this community. As unwilling hostages, they are uninterested in committing their time and energy to rectify the problems facing the city and the schools. It’s understandable, I suppose. But surely, even if you feel stuck, it makes more sense to try and actually live wherever you find yourself. And that means making a commitment. Even if you consider yourself a transient refugee, you can make your world a better place while you’re here.