School Board – Elected or Appointed?
I’m once again in the middle of a work tornado, lasting another week or so. So I’m trying to think of a good discussion topic.
I know there’s discussion going around about whether the school board should be elected or appointed. I haven’t had time to read opinions anywhere so I’m curious to see what people think. I gather that the current way of thinking is to push for an elected board? I actually have mixed thoughts about that based on my experience in a private school where my son went to PreK and my experience on the LSC of my neighborhood school.
I actually see some serious benefits of appointing a board, assuming it is done by someone who’s judgment I trust (and there is my idealism, rearing it’s naive head again.)
At the PreK my son attended, there was a big enrollment debacle (which I will write about one day, now that I’ve had 3 years for my anger to diffuse.) During that time, many of us learned that the school board (who had made a crappy decision about something) was not a voted-in board, but rather each member was selected by the school principal. Which made for a weird set up, since how many hand-selected members are going to actively oppose the person who picked them. It became too much of a monarchy/dictatorship in that the principal had her yes-men under control. Or maybe she just picked people who thought just like her. But there was no way for parents to ever decide to “take over the school” by electing in a new board. The parents, who paid to keep the place running, had no power, in a sense. All we could do was show up at the board meetings, express our opinions, and face the eye-rolling. Did I say my anger had diffused? I feel it swelling up.
However…. the principal pointed out that running a school takes a range of skills. The board generally needed people skilled in accounting, law, finance, and P.R. (well, I think they needed the PR piece, they clearly didn’t.) She told us that an elected board would end up being a popularity contest. OK, maybe not Marcia Brady popularity, but she raised a valid point.
And seeing what needs to happen to make an effective LSC run and surely the Chicago school board run, I see where it makes sense to balance out the skills of the board members. Have you ever read the minutes of a board meeting? There is a lot of boring crap in there that requires some special skills to understand. It’s not all about deciding what % of Selective Enrollment high school kids get in based on straight test scores. Much much more than that.
And do we want to know that parents could come over and “take over” CPS? Sure, it makes sense if it’s you, me, and the Raise Your Hand people. But it could be any large group with an agenda. Charter school lovers. Track E lovers. Teachers union members. In theory an appointed board would prevent this from happening.
I’d like to think that everyone in the city would carefully consider the candidates and vote for those with the best intentions for all students. Just like the people running for Water Reclamation district hope that I will consider their candidacy with great effort. Will it really happen that way? I don’t know.
Maybe split the # who are appointed or elected. And balance the appointed by Tier. Heh.