Dear Editor:

Much of the recent debate on how the Madison School District should recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has been legitimate, but some of it has been blatantly disingenuous, to put it mildly.

Thomas Piskula, who has had two letters published on your site in the last several weeks, has attacked the Board of Education relentlessly, and inaccurately, for how it has handled this matter.

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The reason his comments are disingenuous is that Mr. Piskula is one of only a handful of us who are regular attendees at Madison Board of Education meetings. On the few occasions when he has had to miss a meeting, his subsequent comments make clear that he has made the effort to learn what he missed.

Mr. Piskula now has harsh words for the Board for not making MLK Day a school holiday this year, but when the calendar discussion was taking place last year over the course of several regular public Board of Ed meetings, he didn’t even open his mouth on the subject before it was voted on, despite having numerous opportunities to do so.

As a perennial candidate for the Board, one can’t help but wonder what Mr. Piskula’s motives are for seeming to care so much about it now, after the fact?

Further, in his letter last week, he accused Board President Lisa Ellis of only selecting people who were in general agreement with the Board to serve on the ad hoc committee the Board formed to examine the MLK Day issue and make a recommendation. This is patently untrue.

Every member of the public who has spoken on this subject in the last two months at regular meetings of the Board has been invited by Mrs. Ellis and/or Committee Chair Shade Grahling to join the committee. If anyone doubts this, there are tapes to prove it.

Truth is, this is as open a Board of Education as I have seen in my 16 years of attending its meetings on a regular basis. Frankly, I never thought we’d see that when I think back to the period 10 to 15 years ago when the Board was plagued by scandal after scandal, and duplicity was the order of the day.

I’m as quick to disagree with this Board on certain issues as anyone else, but I am now able to respect the fabric and fiber of each individual member. Disagreeing with people shouldn’t equate to ascribing bad motives to them. I didn’t support Pat Rowe in his campaign for Borough Council because I disagree with him on certain political issues, but I respect and wholeheartedly admire him, along with Mrs. Ellis, for re-building the image and credibility of the Board of Ed over many years from its 2005 low.

One might also ask of Mr. Piskula’s rant if it doesn’t concern him that students don’t get Veterans Day off either? Does it take a day off, which for most kids usually means more time to play video games and the like, for young people to honor those who have made a major contribution to our society?

The Board admits that it dropped the ball on its plan to have in-school events honoring Dr. King this year, and has apologized for that, but I think we owe it to them – and the students – to see how it works next year when they have full programming in place. Rather than being “like” other districts, as Mr. Piskula wants, why don’t we find a way to do it better, to lead the way?

As I understand it, this is the Board’s goal, and I’m on board all the way in that.

 

STEPHEN WELLS

Madison