Let’s suggest some folks who might be possible school board candidates in DeKalb now that the state Board of Education has recommended the ouster of six veteran members. I expect the governor to move quickly on approving that recommendation and naming the replacements.
I also wonder if Nathan Deal would reappoint any of the vanquished board members, including those who have only served two years at this point. He apparently has that prerogative.
Any names come to mind?
In the meantime, here is an interesting suggestion from retired educator John Davis that Georgia move to appointed school boards. Typically, the mayor appoints the boards. (Here’s a list of places with appointed boards.)
By John Davis
During 40 plus years in education, I have had the opportunity to work in a variety of school organizations. One of the most noteworthy
was where the mayor appointed the five-member school board.
had some business background or educational experience. None received a salary, secretarial assistance or expense accounts.
They were responsible for hiring a superintendent and developing and following school policy. If the public did not like the way the schools were being handled, they needed to look no further than the mayor’s office. It was a very efficient and effective operation.
It has been my experience that school systems experiencing organizational/leadership problems usually have dysfunctional school boards. When examining the causes of dysfunction, several factors seem to repeatedly occur.
The first problem is the size of school boards. When boards exceed seven members, it becomes more difficult to reach consensus and more likely members will fragment into political/district diversions. In other words, members focus more on the local district they represent rather than on what is best for the entire school system.
The second problem is offering salaries and benefits to elected school board members. This tempts some individuals to seek the elected position to bring in some extra money and, in some cases, their entire income, even though they have little or no understanding of multi-million-dollar budgets and how to make complicated business decisions. There is also the problem of individuals running for elected positions with ulterior motives that are narrowly focused and counterproductive to serving as a team player.
The third problem is the way school board members are elected. School board elections take place at the same time as county, state and/or federal elections. This places the school board nominees’ names toward the end of the ballot. Most board members do not seek or cannot afford large campaign organizations; thus, the public has very little exposure to the background or experience of those seeking a board position.
By the time most voters get to the school board portion of the ballot, they select a name that either sounds familiar or just make a wild guess. Unless the media has gotten involved with school board coverage, the general public is left pretty much in the dark about qualifications.
What I liked about the school system where the mayor
appointed the school board was that it was important for the mayor, an elected official, to appoint highly qualified individuals and then make sure a highly qualified superintendent would be hired who could work with the board and the community.
The dysfunctional DeKalb County Board of Education offers a golden opportunity for the state Board of Education and the governor to address organizational/structural problems that exist in many school districts. Instead of replacing board members with another group of nine individuals representing nine mini school districts, think outside the box and select representatives whose interests reflect the greater district needs.
While the DeKalb board will shrink to seven members next year as a result of state legislation, consider a five-member board. Instead of another election for the members, have the board composed
of one representative from the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, one f rom the DeKalb PTA, one from the Organization of DeKalb Educators, one from among retired educators and one at-large member.
Of course, there are numerous combinations of groups that could represent the DeKalb County schools, and this is offered as one example.
My plea is to address the root problem, which is the current organizational structure of selecting school board members. Let us be honest: Any change to the structure cannot be any worse than what we now have.
–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog