To this day, I am mystified over the number of people who run for office that don't believe they have to explain anything to voters AFTER they are elected. And I'm talking here about people whose work is not done with a vote (like the Mayor) but people who have to work in a group (City Council, School Board).
I truly doubt that these people get challenged on every single vote but I'm sure people ask on some. Why would they not respond? If asked, what data or information did you use to make this decision, why can't they answer in specific? Why wouldn't you be accountable to explain how you came to your decision?
I have worked on other campaigns and felt like yes, this person is willing to be open and honest about their votes. Mostly, it didn't pan out this way.
(Just to make clear, when I was on the Closure and Consolidation Committee, we were given sensitive information. When you are working on issues that have sensitive information or personnel or privacy issues, yes, you do have to be discrete and yes, sometimes keep your mouth shut. I understand that.)
But it does feel like things happen in a vacuum at the Stanford Center. It feels like things are already decided before any public discussion or vote. It feels like staff gets to decide where and when public engagement happens; I don't agree with that. The Board is accountable to the public and should have a large voice about public engagement.
So I have talking about accountability from Board members but there is also the issue of Board members holding the Superintendent accountable. I do NOT want the Board members to publicly ream out the Superintendent for a mistake or error. But when it is obvious that a serious error has been made a simple statement lets us - the public - know that the error has been pointed out as well as its seriousness.
Case in point: the retirement dinner.
(Thanks to Meg Diaz, I was able to read additional information from the State Auditor (and I said this at the Board meeting). Here's part of what I said:
"Here the auditors are speaking with a staffer in the district Accounting office.
“She told us the District has no formal policies for banquets and awards ceremonies. ">Every year, the Superintendent will have a retirement banquet for long-term certificated employees. We discussed such banquets usually are tied to entities' longevity incentives and are found in employee manuals. We discussed guidance from the AG that we audit to, that tells us that unless there are policies in place to address this topic it is considered gifting of public funds.”
Now the district says they will be spending money every year on a banquet for certificated employees only. That we have the money for such a party really throws into doubt that we are running on empty. I know that $7K is not a lot compared with the overall budget. But as soeone who ran an elementary school chess club, I know that amount could likely fund about 3-5 clubs throughout the district."
Was that so hard? Nope. Did it single out the Superintendent? Nope. Did acknowledge the issue and address the concern? Yes. Because see, I couldn't be making this case against the retirement party if the district had a policy on funding food for banquets and parties. But they don't and the Superintendent knew that and yet, went ahead. (And, according to what the State Auditor was told, is going to continue to do so.)
And frankly, I think the genteel air around School Board elections should cleared out of the room and the windows thrown open. Every single incumbent Board member who chooses to run again should be held accountable for what they did and did not do, starting with why there is an accountability phrase at the bottom of every single sheet of SPS paper and yet there is no public evidence of this happening.