Indian River School Board members split over airing President’s address

By Debbie Carson, Online Editor

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Indian River County School Board members are split over Superintendent Dr. Harry La Cava’s decision to ban a live airing of President Barack Obama’s speech to schoolchildren on Tuesday in the county’s public schools.

Of the four School Board members reached for comment Sunday, two firmly stand behind La Cava’s decision to not run the president’s address live. One opposed the decision, terming it a disservice to students and a sign of disrespect for the president. And the fourth said the issue has become a teachable moment for all. Board members Carol Johnson, Claudia Jimenez, Karen Disney-Brombach and Debbie MacKay offered their opinions to and their positions do not represent the board as a whole. Attempts to reach School Board Member Matthew McCain were unsuccessful over the Labor Day weekend.

School board Chairwoman Carol Johnson said that Dr. La Cava’s decision was in keeping with the district’s policies.

“Policies are our rule of law,” Johnson said. Under the school board’s rules, Dr. La Cava has the authority to decide whether or not such addresses should be aired in the district’s classrooms. Dr. La Cava has said that such materials need to be reviewed first before a decision can be made.

The White House has said that President Obama’s speech is designed to encourage school children to set goals, work hard and to stay in school.

Johnson added that her cell phone died Saturday after fielding numerous phone calls from parents. She said the majority of the callers wanted to know what the consequences would be if they kept their students at home in an attempt to keep them from watching the presidential address.

“Nothing is going to happen on Tuesday,” Johnson said. “Children need to be in school.”

Dr. La Cava’s decision means only that the speech will not be aired live. The district will record and review the speech, and subsequently determine when and if the address will be played.

School board member Claudia Jimenez disagrees that the decision was based strictly on school board policy.

“This is the result of the tea party folks having their influence,” Jimenez said. “Of course, the district line is that this is apolitical and neutral. You’d have to be blind to the realities of the politics of this county to accept that and say, ‘Oh, there’s nothing political about this.'”

“This is about basic respect for the office,” she later said, adding that she thinks the district’s decision sends an “inappropriate message to the children. It’s unfortunate.”

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