The Orange Unified School District in recent months has expended an enormous amount of passion on a recall effort of three school board members. It is time now to find a way to heal the school community and redirect some of that energy to the business that all sides say has been paramount, the education of children.
Would that it were easy. Unfortunately, the narrow recall of the three conservative board members is unlikely to settle much for the short term. The district has a powerful and politically active union and an equally determined base of social conservatives who have plunged the district into a caldron of controversy in recent years. The tensions that have been manifest in bitter contract negotiations, sweeping departures of unhappy teachers, protests and lawsuits are likely to continue in the weeks ahead.
Moreover, an issue that was our primary concern in looking at this recall election, the timing of the vote, now stands as yet another distraction on the horizon. No sooner have three incumbents been replaced on a thin margin than two of the three new board members face the prospect of reelection campaigns. Two other members who were not subject to the recall face reelection. It would have been better to address all this at one time, in November. But if there was any question about whether the matter was settled Tuesday, forget it. Both sides have said they will start campaigning immediately for the November election.
So now a troubled district lurches onward. What it most needs is some way to harness the passions on both sides and to find common ground.
Clearly, many dedicated teachers in the district have felt so abandoned and discouraged by their board's policies that they believed they had no alternative but to seek employment elsewhere.
Moderate and liberal parents are dismayed by the current board's preoccupation with fighting causes not directly related to instruction, such as whether a club of gay and straight students should have access to school facilities. On the other side, many who supported those targeted for recall believe that the union seeks nothing less than total control of the board. For the sake of the district, these parties must seek fresh ways of addressing their differences.