Wednesday, December 13, 2006

School Boards are Dysfunctional

Interesting op-ed in the Times today, Confessions of a Beleaguered School Board Member.

I had expected it to be from a Seattle School Board member and it's a guy on Vashon Island. He touches on concerns I hadn't really considered. I think there is some sub-text to it that I may be missing (he writes it somewhat like a confessional).


Charlie Mas said...

This article strongly made a point that I have been trying to make for some time now.

School Board are almost completely powerless. All they are supposed to do is set policy, but they have no power to enforce those policies.

We are supposed to influence our districts by discussing and sometimes altering the policies by which our districts are supposedly governed, but there is often no one who knows these policies, much less who makes sure they are enforced. It seems every time we review a policy in our district — discipline, nutrition or curriculum — we find some key element that in practice is ignored.

I asked an administrator if she cared that our discipline policy and our discipline practice were at odds and the response, in essence, was, "Not really." That about sums up the state of things. I know from speaking to other directors and superintendents that we are not alone in this, but it does not excuse us.

The School Board needs to hire a policy enforcement officer, a cop, deputized with the Board's authority to enforce District policy. The enforcement officer should investigate possible policy violations and, upon finding any, implement remedies.

For example, if the District decides to re-classify 900 students from 10th grade to 9th grade in direct violation of the Policy on Promotion/Non-Promotion of high school students, the Policy Enforcement Officer (how I wish I could figure out a clever acronym) would step in, put the students all back into the 10th grade, slap the wrists of the people who tried to push through the mass re-classification and file a report with the Board.

If someone failed to follow the Policy on Community Advisory and Oversight Committees, the PEO would step in and compel them to comply with the policy. I think withholding their pay until they comply would be effective, but I'm sure that other means could also be found.

This would go a long way towards bringing accountability into the school district.

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