Monday, May 18, 2009

Appointive Boards? Elected? Half and Half?

So an article on NYC schools, a dialog with a mayoral candidate and a petition have all got me thinking.

First, the article was about a reauthorization in NY of a law that gave Mayor Michael Bloomberg control over NYC schools. Under this law, he has made sweeping changes, some good and some not working. Test scores have gone up.

From the article:

"The Legislature is scheduled to reauthorize the law this summer. It would do well to leave the heart of the statute — mayoral control — intact. But some legislators are rightly seeking more parental input, greater transparency and at least some checks on the mayor’s considerable powers.

In most cities with mayoral control, the mayors appoint all or a portion of a school board. They often do so in consultation with other branches of government. The board then chooses the top school official. In New York City, the mayor chooses both the schools’ chancellor and a supermajority of a board that serves at his pleasure."

So, Mayor Nickels and the candidate I had a talk with, Michael McGinn, both have talked about the mayor taking this kind of role. I mentioned to Mr. McGinn that Charlie has said he'd be for an appointed Board if the superintendent was elected. He laughed and said he hadn't thought of that. (By the way, I thought Mr. McGinn was a very thoughtful candidate. He said he knew that the mayor had no direct role over the schools but with the low graduation rates and high percentage of Seattle parents choosing private schools, it may be important for the mayor to take more of a role.)

With the NY law, Mayor Bloomberg gets to pick both leadership positions (or at least a majority on the Board). I personally would not like that. It makes it way too easy for a mayor to do a sub-par job on education but if he/she did well in other areas then it would be difficult to vote the sole person accountable to voters- the Mayor - out of office.

From the article:

"When challenged about his style, Mr. Bloomberg argues that people who don’t like his school policies can hold him accountable by not voting for him at election time. But that approach finds little sympathy with parents who say they’ve been shut out and caught off guard by decisions that affect their children’s lives right now.

Some lawmakers are seeking ways to guarantee greater access for parents and communities. In addition, other critics want a neutral agency like the Independent Budget Office to audit the city’s reporting on test scores, dropout rates and other important indicators of the system’s health."

Yes, parents who have been shut off of discussions and caught off guard by decisions that affect their children. Sound familiar? I'll have do research and see if there is a district in the U.S. that has found the middle ground for public input AND is still able to make the hard decisions. But it sounds like Mayor Bloomberg, in a huge effort to make better NYC schools, isn't putting much stock in listening to parents.

The petition issue is one that would elect some of our City Council at-large and some by district. The feeling is that the neighborhoods or regions of the city are not being heard. The Seattle Times weighed into against this idea in an editorial.

I'm not here to debate this issue about the City Council. But we have this oddity of having district primaries for the Board and then, voting on them city-wide in the general election. Many believe they have a "district" director and really that's not the case. So why do we vote this way?
Would it be better to have a majority representing regions and a minority representing the whole city? Would it be better to have the mayor appointing half the Board? Hmm.

12 comments:

dan dempsey said...

Under this law, he has made sweeping changes, some good and some not working. Test scores have gone up.Well sort of....the number of special situations where students get certain accommodations that are not available for other students grew so rapidly that recent NYC test scores are virtually meaningless.

If memory serves me correctly 25% of the students received accommodations up from around 10% to 12% in previous years. I am not looking this up... this is from memory.

YUP the NYC scores went up and when you look into it that means absolutely nothing. Just another way to cook the books.

Let us not use NYC "bogus" test score improvement as an argument for anything.

TechyMom said...

Elected Superintendant. That's the way to go. There's real accountability. In addition, you'd be more likely to get someone local in an elected position, since it would be pretty hard for someone from another state to run.

adhoc said...

Yup, I'd like an elected Supt. too!

Appointed board??? Not so sure??
I certainly don't think that our current elected board is working very well. Nor have the last two boards worked very well.

In fact I think the board (as a whole) is an inefficient mess. The directors (as a whole) appear incapable of standing up for the families they represent.

Change might be a good thing at this point. But what kind of change????

dan dempsey said...

The directors (as a whole) appear incapable of standing up for the families they represent. The board does a fabulous job of supporting the Central Administration and the Superintendent no matter how bizarre the recommendations.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

I think an elected super might be the way to go...but I do like the idea of having the city somehow involved. The state of the Seattle school system can have a direct impact on many other aspects of the city: housing prices, jobs, livability, etc.

Perhaps there could be a city council member who is also a school board member...don't think I want the mayor in charge though.

chalkdust said...

This blog is wonderful. I had this exact same idea today and was pleasantly surprised to find it already exists.

I would love to help out in some way, but I could not find any contact info for the admin. Please email me at smepome[at]hotmail[dot]com

TechyMom said...

How about an elected Super with oversight and policy making by the city council? School board is a very part-time job. Could the duties be picked up by the council? I think council members have staff too, so they might be able to get research into issues done by people independant of the JSCEE staff. Is this a crazy idea? Please poke holes in it.

dan dempsey said...

I think council members have staff too, so they might be able to get research into issues done by people independent of the JSCEE staff.Wow!!! if that had happened likely:

1. No Denny/Sealth fiasco

2. Millions saved on Math materials by purchasing proven winners instead of OSPI and UW recommended experimental trash math programs.

3. Trees standing at Ingraham without court intervention.

4. etc.

----
research =To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data.Think about the four Yes voting "Directors" for "Discovery" in the recent HS math adoption ... clear that little real research was done (or probably wanted).

Carr told an irrelevant story.

Sundquist mentioned two minor quotations from NMAP, while totally missing the major thrust of the report, which is preparation for and access to an "Authentic Algebra" course.

Maier talked of a math book with just Algebra in it, while voting for a book packed with statistics, pictures of calculator screens, and an inadequate amount of algebra.

Cheryl Chow droned on the longest and said virtually nothing about the mathematics.
------------------
It appears that the purpose of the law is not justice but to insure the orderly functioning of society.The board violated their own By Law B45.0 in extending the Superintendent's contract.

The superintendent and her recommendations must be supported at all costs... lest the master plans be disrupted by public needs or input.

It appears that appealing to the directors to use sound judgment is pointless. Follow the "Ingraham Trees" model = if it is important head to court.

Looking at most items it appears that school board testimony is to make the public aware as four directors could hardly care less. If a successful outcome is wanted just head directly to court and skip the testimony.

dan dempsey said...

Try this article and if the shoe fits wear it.

What Makes a Great School Board member:

http://www.greatschools.net/cgi-bin/showarticle/298?cpn=20090519pa2 It lists Six signs of an ineffective school board member among them:
The school board member "rubber stamps" all the superintendent's proposals without asking hard questions.

Where is that "effective new leadership" that was central to Steve Sundquist's campaign?

Judging from the sign of an ineffective board member above and the number of dissenting votes cast by Director Sundquist .. I've stopped looking for "effective new leadership".

Well Steve has two plus years to go ... hope springs eternal. Grow Steve ...Grow.

gavroche said...

How about we elect a School Superintendent who is actually from the community? Someone who knows our schools, respects parental input, genuinely cares about our kids and is held accountable. Someone from the local education community who is well-respected by parents and teachers alike -- not just business interests. Perhaps a beloved retired principal or even a well-respected and accomplished former city council member.
Wouldn't that be a more sensible and accountable way to run a school district -- rather than the current senseless national trend of hiring unknown people from somewhere else in the country with questionable track records who demand high salaries but don't know our schools or our city, and who can and likely will leave after only 3 or 4 years to move on to another city for more pay, leaving us with whatever chaos s/he created?

Don't our kids deserve more than to be treated as a mere stepping stone in some Superintendent's career?

dan dempsey said...

Look at recent SPS superintendents, could we have elected better ones?

Charlie Mas said...

I'm not joking when I suggest an elected Superintendent and an appointed Board. That's the way the State does it - the Superintendent of Public Instruction is elected and the State Board of Education is appointed.

Consider some of the advantages:

1) The Superintendent will serve for four years - possibly eight or more. Nationally, the average term of office for an urban School District Superintendent is shorter than four years and much shorter than eight. This would give our schools consistent leadership.

2) As we have all seen, the Superintendent has the authority, not the Board. So wouldn't it make sense for the person who actually has the authority to also have the accountability to the public?

3) It would put the role of the Board in the proper light - as a sort of auditing body to confirm that the Superintendent's decisions conform with District Policy, State and federal law, and the District's guiding principles. They would not micro-manage or second-guess the superintendent. It just wouldn't be their assignment and they wouldn't be tempted to do it.

I have no doubt that it would be a better system.