School boards who act as a rubber stamp or don’t act at all are crippling our schools and a disservice to teachers and students.
Today’s headlines regarding school boards in disarray: Chaos at a local school board meeting leads to one person being escorted out by police (KKTV News); School board meetings heat up across country over mask mandates (CBS News); As School Board Meetings Get Hostile, Some Members Are Calling It Quits (NPR)
What’s Really Wrong with American Education? School boards, who are not proactive, cannot serve their district well in today’s secular progressive, rancorous environment.
EducationWeek speaks to truth regarding school board candidates running brilliant campaigns for election to the reality of newly elected members with poor leadership: Ineffective governance (of school boards) is often the byproduct of what has been called “school board dysfunction,” the situation in which board members lacking in organization, leadership, and an understanding of their role diminish a board’s capacity for good decision making and strong educational leadership. The inherent difference between managing a campaign for the school board and actually leading a school system is one of the key drivers of this dysfunction.
Board members spend considerable time campaigning for their posts. In a large district, this can mean fundraising for thousands of dollars, speaking to tens of thousands of constituents, completing dozens of interviews, and networking with countless other politicians. Campaigning, at its heart, is an entrepreneurial experience. The difference is, instead of pitching a product, candidates are selling their ideas, and often more importantly, marketing themselves. The problem lies when a board member moves from tinkering in the garage to elected office.
Students suffer when politics becomes a priority. School boards become the target of voters not because of poor platforms, insufficient creativity, or lack of effort, but because of naiveté and unprofessional conduct. Our national conversation on education should include more discussion of effective school system leadership, and not just of increasing test scores and global competitiveness.
Solution: From Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!: A community conversation must be initiated on the effectiveness of the local school board. Does the school board reflect the expectations of their constituents? Do taxes reflect a positive, meticulous use of funding or are they used to pay off litigations brought forth by unfairly fired or demoted teachers? Does the board demonstrate an awareness of problems in the district? What does the relationship look like between the school board and superintendent? Does the board seem approachable? (Such was not the case in my district. When a popular teacher was demoted and humiliated due to false charges, his students and colleagues appeared at numerous board meetings to address the inequity of this demotion. Their tearful letters, unabashed accusations of unfairness and pleading for justice were met by a board void of emotions. Watching the board’s faces throughout these proceedings was comparable to viewing wax figures at a museum.)
School boards need to set expectations for their principals. Mentoring by administrators insures teachers will be able to achieve the best teaching practices. Students’ test scores should reflect only a minuscule part of the total picture when assessing the teacher. Heavy reliance on those scores discouraged many educators from continuing in the field. School board members need to advocate against the use of such scores. If board members demonstrated the same pre-election exuberance after elected, perhaps these members could affect positive change in their districts. How do they avoid, inadvertently, becoming a rubber stamp for ineffectual or bullying administrators? In other words, the community needs to vet school board candidates meticulously.
I’m Paula Baack, the author of Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!,
TUNE IN TOMORROW. Here’s a tease: The entitled students supported by the inalienable right to complain parents.
PLEASE SHARE THIS LINK WITH ANY AND ALL . Make sure to sign up for my podcast (paulabaack.substack,com). If you’re experiencing unfair practices in your teaching position, please reach out to me at rescuetheteacher @yahoo.com!