"In the end, though, it will still come down to someone in the District leadership insisting on compliance with the law, regulations, policy, and the District's stated values. All it takes is one person."
But what would it really take to foster a culture of compliance to replace the culture of lawlessness? Could just one Board member do anything? Would it require a Board majority? What would they have to do?
Let's begin with the idea that it would only take one person to make a change in the District's culture.
That's pretty clearly true if the person were the superintendent. In fact, that would be my hiring criteria for the next superintendent. My top question for any candidate would be: "We have a culture of lawlessness that we want replaced by a culture of compliance. Can you and will you implement that culture change?"
The potential effectiveness of a single Board member is a bigger question. Could a single Board member do anything or can individual Board members do nothing without a Board majority behind them? What - if anything - do I think a single Director could do?
Let's say that there is a policy that is getting violated. That's not hard to say since there are literally dozens of policies that are routinely violated. Let's pick just one to use as an example. Policy 2090, Program Evaluation &Assessment calls for an annual report. Here's what the policy says:
"The Superintendent shall prepare an annual report which reflects the degree to which district goals and objectives related to the instructional program have been accomplished."That's pretty simple language. It's clear and straightforward. Yet the annual report produced by the Superintendent doesn't speak to instructional programs at all. It doesn't even mention them. Couldn't a Board Director, after giving the Superintendent sufficient warning and in a perfectly professional and collegial way, direct the superintendent to produce a report that meets the requirements of the policy?
Ah, but it takes a majority vote of the Board to direct the superintendent to take an action, doesn't it? Yes. It does. And that majority vote of the Board was secured when the Board voted to approve the policy, the policy which directs the superintendent to make the report. That policy was approved by a majority vote of the Board. That's what a policy is: a majority vote of the Board directing the superintendent once and for all time.
Let's also remember Policy 1640, Responsibilities & Authority of the Superintendent, which says:
"The Superintendent shall:It is the Superintendent's job to "carry out and ensure compliance with all policies of the Board of Directors". Moreover, numbers 6 and 7 there look a lot like Policy 2090. What possible excuse could he have for failing to meet the requirements of that policy?
- Be the Chief Executive Officer of the school district.
- Carry out and ensure compliance with all policies of the Board of Directors through administrative procedures.
- Consistent with Board policies, take appropriate administrative action.
- Recommend adoption of new policies and revision or elimination of outdated policies.
- Provide professional leadership for the educational program of the schools, formulating necessary developments in policies governing curriculum and instruction and presenting them to the Board for its consideration.
- Develop a system for evaluating the academic performance of the district and presenting it to the Board for its consideration.
- Regularly report to the Board all aspects of the district’s educational program."
So I ask again: couldn't a single Board Director tell the Superintendent to comply with the policy?
Honestly I have a hard time imagining the other side of that conversation. What could the Superintendent say? Could he claim that the policy is unclear in its requirements? It isn't. It's perfectly clear. Anyway, he could always ask for a clarification from the Board - which he did not do - or he could fulfill his duty (see #4 above) to recommend a change in the policy. In short, the Superintendent's only possible refusal to a direction to meet the requirements of the policy would be something like "Nyah nyah nyah. I ain't gonna do it and you can't make me." Seems kinda childish, doesn't it? And yet this was Dr. Enfield's response to the Board when she was asked to meet the requirements of a policy that required her to describe her program placement process. She flat out told them that she refused to follow to the policy. They slunk away with their tails between their legs and abdicated all authority to oversee her ever again.
What if the Superintendent claimed that only a majority vote of the Board could direct him to take the action required by the policy? Never mind that, as I have mentioned, a policy itself represents a majority vote of the Board directing him to take the action. Wouldn't such a claim by the Superintendent be interesting. That would be the Superintendent daring the Board Director to put a motion on the agenda to direct the Superintendent to comply with a policy. He would be telling them to either go public or go away. He would be inviting this Board to do as the Sundquist-DeBell board did, and abdicate their authority to oversee him. Or they could go public with the direction by putting it on the agenda for a Board meeting. Would the Superintendent really want that to happen? I would love to hear the discussion around that motion. Who would argue against it, and what could that argument be? Wouldn't such a motion be essentially guaranteed to pass?
There are those who say that such a direct and public conflict would damage Board-Superintendent relations, but how can you break something that is already broken? How else would you describe a relationship in which the Superintendent refuses to follow policy?
For my part, I would like to see what would happen if a Board Director acting alone, in a professional and collegial way, reminded the Superintendent of a policy and requested compliance with it. For example, wouldn't it be nice if a Board Director requested the annual report required by the Sexual Harassment policy, 3208, the annual report required by policy 2090, or a report that includes the required elements listed in policy 2200? Wouldn't it be great if a Board Director requested compliance with policy C54.00 and directed the Superintendent to involve the community as a full partner in the selection of principals for Option Schools? Let's remember that the Superintendent only recommends candidates for principal positions, the Board appoints them. The Board can stop a principal appointment if the recommendation isn't compliant with policy.
Historically the Board has not taken these steps because they fear a public airing of the Superintendent's non-compliance with policy. That's too bad. In every case, I would welcome a public discussion of the Superintendent's non-compliance with policy. That's what will bring the needed change. The Superintendent's bullying of the Board Directors will not survive the bright light of public attention. The Director seeking compliance wouldn't have to make any argument at all. It would be sufficient to read the policy and ask why the Superintendent refuses to comply and which members of the Board support non-compliance. If the policy is no good, then the solution is to either repeal it, amend it, or suspend it, not to violate it.