Confession 17: Irreconcilable Differences

In the past few weeks, the organization I work for decided to sever its ties with the Kansas City Missouri School District and pull out the 38 before and after school programs it runs, as well as the over 7 million dollars it contributes to the district each year. The reason for the decision, in a nutshell, was irreconcilable differences. The school district underwent an administration change this year, the 6th or 7th administration change in less than ten years. The school board brought in a new superintendent (after they’d chosen three other finalists for the position) who has been making sweeping changes in curriculum, programs, staff, and building reorganization. Many teachers, parents and students feel it is too much, too soon. Our programs came under fire early on. The superintendent, never having observed our programs, continually referred to them as childcare programs, noting publicly that we did nothing more than provide parents babysitting services. Funding for our programs disappeared (the district claims it did not have the money), contract disputes ensued, and a tick for tat battle of words took place in the press, both sides lashing out at each other through print and network media. In the end, our organization decided to concede first, by announcing plans to completely pull out of the district at the end of this school year. They supplemented this announcement with a 12 page booklet detailing the conflict to be handed out to parents, business partners, and community leaders.

I do not disagree with the decision that was made, although I have some concerns about the process by which it was made and the lateness of the decision. Two months before the end of the school year doesn’t leave a lot of time for changing course, and there are about 300 employees who depend on their paycheck. It’s the irreconcilable differences that bother me the most. In an age where the divorce rate is 50 %, I wonder, what brings two parties to a point where they can no longer settle their differences? And why is the severing of a relationship considered a solution?

In this case, the superintendent made demands we could not meet while maintaining our vision and mission as an organization, as well as keeping our state funding and license. Yet I think, as a rule, we should not accept irreconcilable differences as an excuse to break ties or end relationships. We need to be taught, and we need to teach our children, the process of reconciliation. We need to encourage our national leaders to use reconciliation as a tool for governing. Heck, most of us need to learn to reconcile who we are with who we think we need to be. Jesus entire ministry on earth was one of reconciliation, his death and resurrection the means by which God was and is reconciled with all of us who are, were and will be. Reconcilable differences– what a world of difference that would make!

Blessings and Peace,