This blog represents my opinions and my opinions alone, and certainly doesn't represent the collective thoughts of any of the Boards or organizations that I serve on. Unfortunately I make all sorts of miistakes, I'm a picky eater, I can't sing and I just recently found out I have been spelling certain words in my vocabulary wrong my entire life. That being said, I still continue to muddle ever onward. Welcome.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Interesting Potential For Conflict:

There have been a couple of comments on my post "The Second Week of the Month..." that I wanted to address here, mainly because my response is too long and there is no feature to save the comment before posting it and this will be the third time I have had to re-type it in it's entirety because I accidentally deleted it the first two times, and can you tell I'm getting irritated yet?

The gist of the matter is is that some posters have inquired regarding any potential conflict of interest between my position on the Monona Grove Board of Education and my seat on the Monona Park and Recreation Board and my appointment to the Monona Family Attraction and Retention Committee, specifically in regard to the closure of Maywood Elementary.

I think part of this may be cleared up in a couple of sentences: I believe that the vote to delay the decision to close Maywood Elementary until next budget cycle IS in the best interests of the Monona Grove School District. If I did not believe that to be true, I would not have voted to delay the decision. I understand that some district residents are vehemently opposed to that decision. I understand that some district residents vehemently support that decision. I understand that the vast majority of our district residents are somewhere in the middle of these two extreme viewpoints. It is a decision that has been made. You can support that decision or you can disagree with it, but it has been made. I am quite confident that the Monona Grove administrative team and the Board of Education will revisit this issue during our district's next budget cycle.

Now, on to the potential conflict of interest between my role on the Board of Education and my seat on the Monona Park and Recreation Board and my appointment to the Monona Family Attraction Committee. During one of our many Board training workshops this past summer, I had the opportunity to ask our district attorney, Michael Julka of Lathrop and Clark, a widely respected school law expert, about any potential conflict of interest between my positions, which I detailed thoroughly and in minute regard. He assured me immediately that there was no such potential for conflict. So, unless I decide to run for the Mayor's spot (joking!) or decide to start selling my own science curriculum (joking again!) or start my own subversive underground educational facility in my basement (still joking!), I am entirely confident that legally and ethically, I am not in danger of violating any conflict of interest.

So, as for the volunteer work that I do for the City of Monona:

  • I am a long time organizer and volunteer for the Monona Parks Pride park clean-up program. We pull weeds, haul sand, pick up trash and rake leaves. Conflict of interest =zero.

  • I have put on several special after-hours children's events promoting literacy and library familiarity at the Monona Public Library. Aside from driving myself insane by having to create 250 rhyming, chronological scavenger hunt clues, conflict of interest=zero.

  • I have served on the Monona Elementary PTO since my oldest son started at Maywood five years ago, both as co- Vice President and co-President of the PTO Board. I decided to step down from my position when I was elected to the Board of Education specifically to be protective of the long-standing reputation of the Monona PTO as being a politically neutral organization. The Monona PTO has done a spectacular job of circumnavigating the roiling political waters in this district, especially during this past election, and can safely say that they speak for all of the parents of Winnequah School and Maywood Elementary. Kudos to them! Conflict of interest=zero.

  • I was appointed to the Monona Family Attraction and Retention Committee in 2007 and have also served on the Broadway Banner sub-committee and the City Marketing sub-committee. Thus far, as a committee, we have helped design the ill-fated and admittedly heinous city logo that was uniformly rejected by the City Council, helped design the gorgeous new City of Monona website (, worked tirelessly on a city beautification project that will install light post banners on the Broadway Corridor and finally, put on an absolutely fabulous and very successful Fall Family Festival that featured, among other things, a pumpkin scavenger hunt, storytelling, live music from the Hang Loueys, local farmers market, crafts, prizes and live alpacas. Missed seeing conspiring to keep Maywood open on the agenda? That's because it wasn't on it. Conflict of interest= zero.

  • Monona Park and Recreation Board- member since 2007. We talk about the typical Park and Rec things: operating budgets, long-term park planning, geese mitigation, pool locker room shower heads, teen smoking at the Skate Park, coyote decoys, splash pads, memorial plaques, drainage issues, warming houses, park encroachments issues, the Kon-Tiki Regatta, fall zones- you get the drift. The City of Monona and the Village of Cottage Grove both have reciprocal agreements with the Monona Grove School District regarding field use (like allowing MGHS sport teams to use public fields for practice) and building use (such as allowing adult league sports use of the barren wasteland that is the Nichols Gym) Colloborative relationships are what we should be striving for, not suspicious of. If I ever feel as if I am in danger of even coming close to a conflict of interest regarding field use for the high school soccer team, that would say, create a huge windfall of ill-gotten monetary gains for the City of Monona, I will abstain from voting. Hasn't happened yet, and I don't expect it will. Conflict of interest= so far zero.
And finally, some future causes of potential concern:

I want to start a community canning kitchen in Monona because I want to perserve my extra tomatoes with a little help. Could this undermine my role as a Board member? Doubtful.
I am also very interested in starting a community garden in Monona, from which we could take the surplus to the aforementioned canning kitchen, can it and donate it to area food pantries. Conflict? Hope not.

I am also trying to drum up interest for a community dog park in Monona. Hidden agenda? Don't think so.

Are we done yet? I never realized that working to make the place where I live and raise my family and the school district that will educate my children better would be so fraught with suspicion. If you have any further questions about my own personal conflicts of interests or ethical leanings, please call me at home. 249-7536 If you have any immediate concerns about what I am doing, please feel free to stop by any of my meetings this week. Times and locations already posted.


  1. Is your post some kind of trick so that you can rig the pickle contest at this years fourth of July event?

  2. Jessica, I appreciate your defense but I wish you didn't have to defend yourself. I admire and applaud all you do for our community and schools. If I can contribute a mere fraction of the time and energy you do, I will feel successful. Keep working hard. I, for one, appreciate it. And let me know how I can help. --Jen Garrett

  3. Thanks Jen! We've met the enemy and he is us. I have a pretty good idea who is posting all these anonymous questions and why they are doing so. Let me know when you might be available to meet about the canning kitchen. I was thinking some time in the next month-ish.

  4. What's with all the beach photos?

  5. I had to visit my happy place sveral times while I was typing and re-typing (and re-typing) this post. That's where I live on the beach with no responsibilities or worries and I'm far too selfish of my time to volunteer for anything, much less spend all day on blog posts defending my volunteer work. Other features of my happy place: neverending taco buffet, endless supply of freshly laundered three inch thick towels and the Knopf Everyman's Library edition of every book ever written. And no mosquitoes.

  6. Perhaps the Mosquitoes will eat the pickles??? Or extra tomatoes? Another Anonymous poster...
    Keep doing to good work!

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