Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Role of a School Board Member

This morning brings news from California that a school board member is surveying students via Google docs to ask them which of their teachers should be fired.

I'm not making this up: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfuEAArKudshXvC2_OocgWDfj-cVnd0OKr7DtecaJudQzk1IA/viewform?c=0&w=1

Check the survey out for yourself.

School board members are elected officials. As such, there are no requirements, no qualifications, no certifications they have to hold to enter office other than receiving a majority of the vote in the election in which they ran.

Thus, it is not surprising that too many don't understand their role.

School board members are the representatives elected to oversee the public school system that is taxpayer funded. As such, they set policy, hire and supervise a superintendent who leads and manages the schools on a daily basis, and fulfill legal responsibilities to approve contracts that legally bind the institution to debt and payments of tax dollars, that govern the employees of the school system, and that fulfill the laws of their state. They work with the superintendent on strategic plans to increase student achievement, meet the growing need for seats in rapidly developing areas, and funding the capital (building, furniture, and equipment) needs of the system.

They are a strategic and important link for constituents, that is, voters and parents, who voice their praise and concerns about their schools.

They have a responsibility to advocate for and defend the community's schools against the forces that would decimate them, often for private profit.

Lastly, school board members serve as the guiding force for the democratic institution that the public schools of America have been and should always be.

School board members are not elected to micromanage schools. They have no say in who is appointed principal, who teaches at the school, and what discipline they think an individual teacher should receive other than to approve sanctions recommended by the superintendent as their legal responsibility.

School board members are not elected to hand over taxpayer-bought assets to private corporations.

School board members are not elected to implement policy hostile to the schools, parents, students, and employees that they represent. They should not be advocating via voice or print that public schools should be closed in favor of 'choice', a buzz word that means privatization. They were not elected to destroy the institution. If that's what they believe in and have any integrity at all, they would resign.

If not, they will find themselves voting to rob taxpayers of their tax dollars. First the taxpayers paid to construct the school, then they have to pay a third party to buy the school, then when the school fails, they can watch the third party sell the property but they won't see the dollars return to the school system. In that event, the word 'thief' is not too harsh to describe those who give their approval.

School board members advocate for their schools. They don't ask students what teachers should be fired. That reveals an ignorance of what takes place in their schools that can only be remedied by actual experience.

They understand and work against the idea that they can run parallel school systems (public, charter, and voucher) on the resources sufficient for only one school system.

They understand that a grading system of schools that relies upon one measure--testing--is insufficient to evaluate the excellence of a school that must also provide meals, counseling, and other support systems to students in desperate need of help.

They are vocal in expressing their appreciation for all their hard-working employees, not only once a year when the calendar arrives in the first week of May, but throughout the year.

It's not easy being a school board member, but these days, no job in education is easy.

School board members are pivotal in easing that burden or making it harder.

On this Sunday in June, I ask every school board member to reflect and consider, then answer the question: am I making it easier or harder?