LEAD 6120 Politics

Discussion prompt: As the text states, the board of education is the public’s main vehicle for perpetuating local control of education. This can be both a positive and a negative. Board of education members are certainly not “value-free.” They modify, regulate, or refuse political demands in response to a variety of value preferences. As small political systems reflecting the tension in a democracy among the demand of school values of quality, equity, efficiency, and choice, they impact greatly the direction of a local school system. Given the amount of impact they have, should there be specific qualifications for board members?  Should they be elected as representatives of different factions or interest groups of the school district? What is the best way for a board to be sure their decisions are representative of the community’s desires?

My only experience with being on a board was while serving on the Manitou Springs Public Library. I served for five years on this advisory board and there was an infinite amount of information to learn.  I do not believe that there should be qualifications for board members of anything except the desire and ability to learn. After a year I was able to go on a retreat for Library Board members and it was eye-opening. All board members should have some type of training/retreat so that a large amount of information can be presented at once. If board members could read the text from “The Political Dynamics of American Education”, that might be extremely helpful. Even just reading all the board policies is a time-daunting task. Most school boards have a three year membership on the board, which is great. But three years on a board is when you really get the hang of how everything works. Board members should understand what they are becoming involved in, by reading the minutes, agendas and policies of the school board to try to better understand the process.

In Manitou Springs School District, I know we always try to have representatives from Ute Pass, where one of our elementary schools is located. Geographically it is further away and sometimes seems isolated. I believe if districts have this issue, it would be wise to have different geographical areas represented.

Board members should also  familiarize themselves with all the buildings in the district. If the district is too large, the board members could divide up the buildings.  In District 20, we have a board member assigned to our school who visits once a month for 2 hours to allow for the hands-on observation of the school. This would be a great practice for all board members. To try to have all citizens are heard, boards should also conduct surveys of parents or have open meetings where citizen participation is wanted. I don’t think there is any easy answer to make sure all citizens are heard.

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