From their web site:
School Board Leaders for the Future is a Seattle based educational non-profit ganization dedicated to training school board candidates about the role of School Board Directors and best practices of effective governance.That sounds good.
This training is open to potential school board candidates as well as interested community leaders and citizens. Thomas Alsbury, a nationally recognized researcher on school board governance and Professor of Education at Seattle Pacific University, will lead this training with a focus on his model of Balanced Governance.A professor of education sounds good. I don't know what "Balanced Governance" is, but it sure does sound good.
Through generations contributions from donors this training is offered free of charge to all interested individuals.Gee. That sounds good, too.
Then I looked at the group more carefully and it didn't sound as good any more.
First, this is how they describe the school board role
"While we respect individual points of view, we believe that excellent school board governance is focused on selecting and evaluating the most qualified Superintendent, creating and adopting policy and assuring fiscal health and fiduciary responsibility for the organization."You will notice that they limit the Board to creating and adopting policy, not enforcing it. This is a grave failure. The Board can write policy, but if they do not enforce it, then they have not made policy. The district's culture of lawlessness is rooted in the Seattle School Board's failure/refusal to enforce policy. That's governance. Enforcing policy is a critical element of governance and it is absent in Seattle Public Schools.
Second, the "Balanced Governance" is described as halfway between "a disengaged, 'rubber stamp' board" and "a micromanaging board". I don't want a board that is any part of either of those, let alone a blend of them, no matter how balanced that blend may be.
Third, they put a focus on "avoiding community conflict". Here's a description of one of the parts of the second day of training:
3. Avoiding Community Conflict Through Governance Roles. This presentation includes information and a scenario activity where board members learn the importance of the trustee versus delegate role and, more importantly when to enact each one to decrease community conflict. The activity culminates in a series of recommendations on how to detect ensuing conflict and how to respond proactively to reduce damage to district stability and student performance.I know this is Seattle and people here hate conflict, but it is far healthier to resolve conflicts than to avoid them or try to "decrease" them. I don't think any elected official is going to decrease community conflict by telling constituents that the elected official is not the community's delegate. That's not avoiding conflict, that's just dodging it.
Fourth, take a look at the people who sit on the Board of this organization. I don't think that Mr. DeBell is in a position to tell other folks how to perform the duties of a school board director. He did not adhere to the principles he preaches. Despite his admonitions to his colleagues to stay out of the tasks delegated to the superintendent and not to dictate procedures, he usurped the superintendent's authority to place programs, wrote a procedure rather than a policy for waivers of instructional materials, and, as we all know, refused to enforce policy. I'm not a great fan of Mona Bailey or BiHoa Caldwell either.
So go to the training, but challenge them on the absence of policy enforcement. Challenge them on the meaning of Balanced Governance. Challenge them on their focus on avoiding conflict. And, most of all, challenge them on their own track record.