One day in 2004 members of the school board in the small district of Dover, Pennsylvania, voted to teach “intelligent design” in the high school. A group of parents brought a lawsuit, contending that this was not science. Eventually the parents won, and the board members were voted out of office. But because the school was required to defend the actions of the school board, the district ended up paying more than a millions dollars to the plaintiffs. This was a crippling cost for a small district.
A school board that deferred to a strong superintendent who was cautious would never have gotten into this fight. NEOLA would have advised the school board about the obvious repercussions of the policy.
This is not a guarantee way to keep the school out of trouble, a super with a fringe ideological bias can lead a district into trouble just as deep as Dover.
A short summary of the ways that a strong super philosophy has harmed the school.
1. The board is isolated
Years of pushing away parents from having their say in the decisions the board makes has isolated the board from parent input. They might have conversations with parents in passing, maybe read a few emails, but that is not the way to get broad assessment from all segments of the community. A recent example was the March 2012 special board meeting during which the board was shocked to hear the level of bullying occurring in the schools, a board that had been keeping communication open would not be surprised by parents.
2. Fast and easy is not the way to find excellence
Being a school board member is not easy. Irate parents and groups with conflicting interests make continuous demands on the board. The small fee board members are paid is little compensation. Allowing the superintendent to run the school means fewer meetings, less documents to read, less stress. If the reason a board member took office was to use their unique skills and experience, and not to sit passively and rubber stamp a fifth vote, board members must become active participants, and encourage all parents to join the decision making process.
3. Cut and Paste Schools are not the way to find excellence.
NEOLA brand education might be the way to avoid the worst failures a school can blunder into, but it is not the way to build the highest quality school. When we care about our health, we don’t go to fast food restaurant chains. Why would we send our children to “fast food education” schools?
4. Smart parents are pushed away by the board
The most unfortunate part of the way the board works is to neglect the resources at hand. Grandview has many talented people who work in education (because of nearby OSU). The board has a history of pushing these highly talented parents away. It is not an easy process to work with a sometimes fractious public, but the way to find true excellence is to work with these talented parents.
The future of the school board
The Grandview school board has some obvious problems with the way they relate to the parents in this school district. The board members are intelligent adults, they can change the way Grandview schools operates if they hear parents ask for more openness. If you read this article and agreed change is needed, but want someone else to do the work of going to board meetings, want someone else to send emails, no change will occur. You have to speak to be heard.