Perhaps the Board will now find out why it is important to work closely with communities

How many DSBN trustees does it take to screw-in a lightbulb? Unclear, but it only takes three or four to screw a town (depending on how accommodating your mayor is).

That’s part of the reason that the Board’s latest request for community “partnership” has some residents on edge. After all, we’ve been down this road before, when the DSBN strong-armed a new name onto E.W. Farr Memorial School, a decision that flew in the face of the community’s wishes. In Pelham’s recent experience, the Board partners with communities the way bullies partner with lunch money.

This time, however, things are a little different. Now the DSBN is looking to annex a piece of Cherry Ridge Park during school hours. This is not something they can do unilaterally, though as long as we’re renaming schools for British military figures, perhaps an attempt to do so could help further inspire the students. They could call the new part-park “Lord Nelson’s Sea of Green,” with a small patch of grass named for local heroes, where pets could relieve themselves.

However, lacking the artillery of the 19th century British army, the Board needs residents to be at least a little bit on side with this new idea. And so they’ve come hat-in-hand, mere months after the E.W. Farr debacle.

On one hand, you have to admire them for it. To make such a request, after their recent actions, well, it shows they’ve got more balls…in the air than an elementary school recess. On the other hand, partnerships are about a give-and-take. The DSBN has mastered the “take” part, but could certainly use a lesson on the “give.”

Perhaps the Board will now find out why it is important to work closely with communities rather than ramming ideas down peoples’ throats. If you spend your days bullying folks, don’t be shocked if, when you come looking for friendship, those same people question the sincerity of your offer.

And there are plenty of reasons here to question the Board’s sincerity. While they did put together an online questionnaire to gauge community response toward the project, they only notified residents who lived nearest to the park. This is in spite of the fact that all Pelham residents pay taxes to fund and maintain the space, and as far as the Voice is aware, there is not yet a travel ban restricting Fonthill residents from visiting Fenwick (though extreme vetting of DSBN trustees might be something to consider for the future).

The questionnaire also neglects to address many of the important points that would concern any reasonable ratepayer. What are the costs associated with this change? Who pays for them? Will the Board now contribute to the regular upkeep of the park?

How much of the park will residents lose access to during school hours?

The DSBN has shown they have a lot to learn when it comes to legitimate community engagement, and the trust that goes with it.

Until they can find a way to rebuild residents’ trust, the people of Pelham are going to be wary of any project they put forward.