It would behoove any journalist to use more than one source for information for an article. It seems you have consulted Mr. Guard, and only Mr. Guard for the information in your article. (See "Davenport School-Board Member Guard on the Guard," River Cities' Reader Issue 400, November 13-19, 2002. )

Since Mr. Guard has a particular ax to grind with the school board, it would stand to reason that the information you receive from him would be slanted.

I am an employee of the district, but not a member of the teaching staff. I have experienced the kind of information Mr. Guard brings to the table firsthand, and know his facts are not always either correct or up-to-date.

I would like to point out one fact that seems to have escaped your attention: There are as many studies denying the need for smaller class sizes (or the relationship between smaller sizes and improved academic performance) as there are affirming the effectiveness of such. See the article at ( as an example.

As far as traffic situations are concerned, if people would be willing to walk the half mile to school rather than drive, it is amazing how much the traffic problem will be solved! Where I grew up, there were no such things as school buses. One either rode a bicycle, used public transportation, or walked to school. Yes, I do understand the need for busing kids from rural areas and such - but even there, I went to school with kids who rode their bikes for six miles in order to get to school.

The statement, "The focus is about money, not education" is an example of Mr. Guard's limited view. Of course money is a part of the equation! Sources for money for a school district are limited. State and local taxes, plus some federal money, are the only guaranteed sources for a school district anywhere in this country. The scramble for grant dollars is on, and only a few districts will get money from those sources, and then on a time-limited basis only. Yet, all employees in the district expect an annual increase in their pay envelopes! Where is the money going to come from? How can the district continue to pay, for example, for the health insurance of employees? How can the district continue to pay increased teachers salaries - which now often happens at the cost of increases to other employee groups?

Are your readers willing to fork over enough tax money to keep a district solvent? Are your readers willing to pay the monies needed to upgrade 100-year-old buildings to modern energy-efficiency standards?

I also found an interesting discrepancy in your story. You start off by saying that the savings have been "virtually wiped out" because of extra teachers being hired this fall. Then later you write that the district has, at the present, 332 teachers as opposed to 354 teachers last year. The way I learned to add and subtract, this means that we have 22 teachers fewer this year than a year ago. Now, I know I did not go to school in the U.S.A., but where I was educated, that still means a reduction in payroll expenses.

All of this to say: Please do a more thorough job on checking your information for future articles. I have my own "beef" with the Davenport Community School District leadership, but still do not appreciate such a one-sided hatchet job as the local newspapers think they need to lend themselves for.

Rudy Schellekens

The Tattered Rags of Self-Delusion

When Barb Ickes, the Quad-City Times reporter, began her quest about a month ago for answers to the declining-enrollment problem, she triggered an avalanche of opinion and protest. It was especially rude of her to do it on the front page. What were her bosses thinking? Not to worry - within a week they had ceded prime real estate, above the fold, to Davenport Community School District Superintendent Jim Blanche, or rather Dr. Jim Blanche, as he prefers to be addressed. He moved quickly to chastise Ickes on the op-ed page, and exhorted his public to say positive things that were reported in due time by the Quad-City Times. The guy is getting on my nerves. He must think he's the only "doctor" in town, that the rest of us are too busy playing Nintendo or whatever it is he thinks we do, to notice how condescending and manipulative he is. There is a pattern here. Blanche cannot tolerate criticism, or even dialogue, and moves so routinely to suppress it that he has raised his profile as a target. He's competing in a popularity contest, not running a school district. My friends and I make bets on what he'll do next, and he never lets me down. He has turned me into a Blanche Watcher. You could say that since I don't have kids, I should stay out of it, but since Blanche's budget consumes almost half my property tax, I'm interested.

This is a guy who openly manipulates the local paper, throws his weight around because he's a big advertiser, and whines when the news doesn't cooperate. As if he had a patent on educated discourse, he chastises the public for seeing with eyes wide open the emperor's new clothes, which are nothing but the tattered rags of self-delusion. Fiscal crisis is a national phenomenon, and nothing, including public education, is sacred. Look for taxpayers everywhere to venture where once they feared to tread, and ask increasingly pointed questions about where their money is going. This is only the beginning, and those who serve at the public's pleasure should get used to it. It isn't a PR problem, and it's not our problem; it's Blanche's problem, as taxpayers become more discerning about how their money gets spent. The operative word here is "accountability." But those of us who question Blanche's wisdom, something we are free to do in America, are bad sports, and may even dislike children.

It's no secret that he runs the school board, not the other way around, with only Alan Guard to disrupt what once was a seamless process of discouraging public input and humbling critics. Listen carefully as he plays the race card, again. (Remember the tearful Hester, may he rest in peace, accusing a building?) After jettisoning two perfectly viable central-city schools, models of student achievement and interracial harmony, the district is now in a diversity crisis. (One of the ways we can solve this is getting rid of the evidence - sell off a pair of magnificent school buildings on the cheap.) Suddenly, a disproportionate number of public-school students are now nonwhite. Having seen to it that the one-cent sales tax benefits (with the exception of Central and its underutilized tennis courts) mainly the whitest parts of town, this must come as a real blow to the sensitive Dr. Blanche. So it is that white families are racially motivated to abandon the district. What if economics had something to do with it, and two-income families prefer local, private institutions with smaller class sizes to bussing their kids across town to overcrowded classrooms? What if it's not about race, but rather quality, or about listening to the parents whose children's warm bodies are worth $4,500 a head?

As ex-officio city planner Blanche condemns neighborhoods rather than trim management, and now he will play God, from the bowels of his bunker, or at least Social Engineer, because we, the unwashed, the players of Nintendo, have a "perception" problem. Our schools are superior, but those pesky minority students aren't, and by God they're taking over. Blanche has been emperor of the Land of Nod, that fiefdom that local government ignores, where state government fears to tread, a black (no pun intended) hole where tax dollars go, long enough. This is a crummy model for the 21st Century. Whose fault is it that Blanche is controversial? Ours? Was Barb Ickes making it all up? And is closing the valve of open enrollment the answer? It's past time for an overhaul of how public education does business, starting with a new job description for the superintendent.

Judith Malone

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