Saturday, October 17, 2020

On the South Bend Community School Corporation Board of Trustees election of 2020


Once our daughter approached Kindergarten age I began to pay close attention to the South Bend Community School Corporation and its governance. Often what I saw was less than confidence inspiring.

I wrote elsewhere in great detail about our decision making process in picking an elementary school (we chose Hay) and an intermediate center (we chose LaSalle). Our daughter is now a senior in the Adams IB program and despite what I mentioned earlier we have been generally quite pleased with her experience in the SBCSC.

Nonetheless, there were times when school board meetings appeared more like performance art than business meetings.  There was ongoing turnover in the Superintendent’s office: Calvin, Raymond, Zimmerman, Kapsa, Spells, and now Dr. Todd Cummings. Conflict, contention – no continuity.

Those days seem to be at an end. When the current Board meets, what I see is a group of people with a shared vision and collegiality that I believe is new and exciting for our community. It’s early yet, but I see the trajectory as more promising than at any time in the last fifteen years, at least.

We have an election soon, and four of these members, two from districts and two at-large, stand for election or re-election. I endorse all of them: Anella, Ball, Weslie, and Monterrosa, but in particular I commend to your attention Rudy Monterrosa.

Rodolfo Monterrosa, Jr. was appointed by the Board to complete the term of Maritza Robles, who died suddenly and unexpectedly.  Like so many others in our community I was devasted by her death.  She was a simply amazing person.  I had volunteered in a small way in both her campaigns and considered her a dear friend. Clearly no one could replace her.  But someone had to succeed her.

There came a time when I was called to jury duty on a criminal battery charge. It took the entire day to seat a jury and I was the last one selected.  The defendant did not inspire great sympathy in terms of his demeanor, but of course that isn’t supposed to matter.  I think it did matter (unfortunately) and I think that had something do with it taking an entire day to seat a jury.

His public defender was Mr. Monterrosa, who impressed me in so many ways over the next few days. His respect for process and all the participants, to be sure. But I think the thing that most impressed me was the energy and focus he put into ensuring that his client (who clearly had few advantages) enjoyed all the protections afforded by our Constitution.  To me, Monterrosa displayed the imperative of equity: that each of us deserve an equal chance at justice. The defense was successful, by the way.

So, I was frankly delighted when the board chose Rudy to complete Maritza’s term.

Since then I have had the chance to learn more about him and observe him in action. As a board member, he has shown independence and a healthy skepticism.  For example, despite our Superintendent’s inexplicable endorsement of a charter school (Purdue Polytechnic)  competitor’s application to locate here, and his later advocacy to house them in Washington High School, Monterrosa stood alone in his adamant opposition that this be pursued by the corporation. As it turned out, the community agreed with his position and the matter was dropped.

Each year around Christmas, Rudy and his wife take a small group of volunteers to provide legal representation to immigrants in the Dilley, Texas area, whose only wish is to enjoy the opportunities most of us take for granted and who have odds seriously stacked against them.

Rudy was inspired to pursue the law when he met (as he puts it) “someone who looked like me”.  Unsurprisingly, he puts a lot of energy mentoring young Latina and Latino lawyers and those interested in pursuing legal careers.

In another ethnicity I think Rudy Monterrosa would be characterized as a mensch.  I hope you will join me in allowing him to continue to serve us on the South Bend School Corporation Board as he hopes to do.

What do you think it symbolizes?