Finesse in Paradise

Kudos to the school board for defusing a tense situation

For a recap of the CN&R’s recommendations in handy print-out form, click here.

There come moments in all elected officials’ lives when they face constituents with whom they strongly disagree. How they handle those situations is a measure of their effectiveness.

Take what happened to Donna Nichols, the vice president of the Paradise school board, when the board president, Tim Titus, placed a resolution on the Oct. 21 meeting agenda stating the board’s support for Proposition 8, the anti-gay-marriage measure. The item, brought forward by the Ridge Ministerial Fellowship, was so controversial that the meeting had to be moved to the Paradise High School gymnasium.

Nichols, who is paraplegic as the result of an accident, is personally familiar with discrimination and has long worked to increase the rights of the disabled. She felt strongly that the school board should not take a position on Prop 8. But she was running for re-election, and she knew that a large majority of Paradise residents, including parents of kids in the schools, supported it.

The issue was the most volatile one she’d seen in 16 years on the board, she told the CN&R. She wanted to be responsive to her constituents, but at the same time she did not want the board to take a favorable position on a measure that to her was discriminatory. So she came up with a compromise resolution.

It acknowledged that failure to pass Prop 8 would “most likely significantly alter the instruction to our community’s children regarding marriage and family,” and then urged voters “to become highly educated on the impact that the failure of Proposition 8 will have on the curriculum and instruction” in the district so “they can cast an educated vote on this important issue.” After a raucous two-hour hearing, it passed unanimously.

We’re not sure how much Prop 8 will alter instruction. Not much, we expect, and only on the high school level, where all kinds of controversial issues—drugs, STDs, racial discrimination—are discussed. But we admire Nichols’ finesse and the Paradise school board’s adroit avoidance of what could have been a highly divisive outcome.