Trustees’ Christianity Should Not Offend You

Clockwise from left: Superintendent Dawson Orr, Paul Rowsey, Jim Hitzelberger, Sam Dalton, Joe Taylor, Kelly Walker, Leslie Melson, and Cynthia Beecherl
Highland Park ISD Superintendent Dawson Orr (left) with elected trustees Paul Rowsey, Jim Hitzelberger, Sam Dalton, Joe Taylor, Kelly Walker, Leslie Melson, and Cynthia Beecherl

The April edition of Park Cities People includes a chart breaking down the biographies of the Highland Park ISD trustees. It details the following information: their jobs, when their terms end, whether or not they or their children are Highland Park High School graduates, and which churches they attend.

Two readers have told me that the inclusion of the trustees’ churches was “offensive.” If that offends you, then you’re probably just looking for a reason to be offended.

(Full disclosure: I had a bar mitzvah, but I’ve never been a member of a synagogue as an adult, and I have no plans to keep kosher for Passover.)

The point of that chart was to introduce the trustees to our readers; I’ve been to many of their meetings, so I know how sparsely attended they are. These people are about to make some key decisions about the future of the district and its growing number of students. By including the trustees’ pictures, the idea was that you might recognize them if you saw them at a store or a restaurant or, yes, a church.

I was not trying to say that membership in a Christian church is a prerequisite for serving as a trustee. And I know the school district is saying no such thing by including the trustees’ churches on this page. I, and HPISD administrators, know all about the separation of church and state. But that separation does not mean trustees of a public-school system have to hide their Christianity or their church affiliations.

If you genuinely think the board would benefit by having a member who’s an atheist, a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Jew, a Muslim, or a Wiccan, then put your money where your mouth is. The seats held by board president Leslie Melson and vice president Jim Hitzelberger will be up for grabs a year from now. Go for it.

2 thoughts on “Trustees’ Christianity Should Not Offend You

  • March 31, 2014 at 2:32 pm
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    I’m a member of one of the other religions you listed, and I appreciate knowing where the trustees worship. The religious views of public officials should be public. My family has experienced some unpleasant situations in the PC because we are not Christian, but that has nothing to do with the trustees.

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  • April 1, 2014 at 4:45 pm
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    “Offended” was probably not the best word for anyone to use. It doesn’t really seem to apply. Perhaps those who expressed offense were trying to express a vigorous belief in the separation of church and state, which should theoretically render a person’s religious practices wholly irrelevant to their civic offices and responsibilities. Maybe we haven’t gotten there yet, but we can dream.

    Reply

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