Just What Should We Look for in Schoolboard Candidates?

Posted on May 2, 2011. Filed under: Conservative, education, Elections, Politics, Texas | Tags: , , , |

The ISD’s throughout Texas and across the country have worked hard to grow their empires.  Sources of Education funding ( State, Federal, and local funding) comes to the ISD administration.  The small committee of people  are tasked with the creation and management of  budgets for the respective district.  What has occurred through the years is the administration has grown, along with the budget required by the ISD.  One could argue there are so many students representing a diverse population both economically and cultually, it is a direct impact on the needs of the community.  This point of view is not standing up to scrutiny in the majority of the ISD’s in Texas nor in other states.

We have gone toward an education system where people from prestigious colleges and posessing high visibility in community organizations rule.  These people determine how taxpayer dollars will be used in the district.  I am not disparaging their qualifications, only to say that the qualifications do not inherently mean they have common sense nor the experience required for a job managing millions of dollars and thousands of students.  People in those school districts pay exorbitant amounts of money in school taxes.  There is a duty to provide good stewardship of funds and programs to the entire community. 

Money does not guarantee a person will excel beyond their wildest dreams.  There have been a lot of studies that show when students have it too easy, they don’t necessarily become good citizens.  These people continue to expect everyone in society to contribute to their quality of life.  A good case in point, is the highly educated people of privilege who brought down Enron.  The people making the trade decisions and influencing poor accounting policies were from elite households and had the finest educations.  One might also point out without relevant experience, people easily get into trouble on big projects.  A good example of the result of lack of experience  is the President of the United States. 

What are the ISD’s doing to build character within the school community?  Is it building character to squander money in the ISD?  Are we teaching the children all things are possible with other people’s money?  There is no way anyone can convince me that schools should cost in the tens of millions of dollars and be “architectural gem” to provide good educations.  Are you getting bids?  Are you making smart choices on bond money?

Sadly, the school administrations are not doing a good job.  I would suggest the school boards need to be made up of people with varying backgrounds and expertise to counter balance each other and provide well-rounded solutions based on a total approach.  There should be a person who truly understands budgets and school financing, a teacher who understands political trickery at schoolboard level,  a person who is able to see both sides of an issue and bring good solutions to the table, a person who has experience in IT inclusive of emerging technologies, a person well-versed in state textbook curriculem,  a person who possesses knowledge of buildings and structure, and a leader who can facilitate.

The school superintendent should look over the management of teachers and receive the guidance from the School Board.  This should be his only job.  Simple is better for all concerned, rather than a manifestation of grandiose ideas at the expense of everyone in the community.

Looking into the expenditures of the various school systems in our state, has been eye opening, frustrating, and points to something that has evolved over years of the community not paying attention.  The evolution of a corrupt, power hungry, expensive school system in Texas did not happen over night.   It will take several cycles to strip away the problems, beginning with school board replacements at local and state level.

What can we do?  Please send messages on facebook, email, and twitter to remind everyone of the importance of voting.  If you have data on the local candidates, share it!   The quality or lack thereof in the education system will directly impact future leaders in our country.  It is up to the communities to change current school system challenges.


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4 Responses to “Just What Should We Look for in Schoolboard Candidates?”

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Thanks for a passionate article. It has inspired me to comment in hope that I can add some helpful observations to expand on it. I have followed the SB election in Katy with more interest than in previous years as my grandchildren are in the early years of their education. I have heard the SB candidates debate and listened to our state senators discuss education budgets. At each of these events, I came away with a feeling of frustration. I had heard a lot of politics and continuing old ideas; I heard about teachers, but little about teaching; I heard much about districts and State of Texas, but only brief mentions of students; I heard about success of education being “people wanting to move to Katy because of Katy schools”, this might well be a result of the success, but doesn’t tell me anything about what makes for successful education; I heard the same “old tired and failed” role of SB relating to policies, blab, blab, blab and little about the common sense that SB job is to made good things happen AND avoid things that are unacceptable. I saw reaction of us (the voting public) forming opinions before having the facts, I saw the bottom-side of some teachers and pray these are not representative of any that would be exposed to my grandchildren. Hence my frustration!
First, to expand on your statement “One could argue there are so many students representing a diverse population both economically and culturally, it is a direct impact on the needs of the community.” I would add that for education to be successful each student from all cultures and socioeconomic standings, or “given” talents and skills should be provided with the opportunity to advance to their maximum potential. The diversity is determined by each student and not groups. Currently “the system” favors special needs and EASL students, while the majority are not given the money or curriculum to better assist their specific needs; again IMHO education should be provided such that each individual student can reach their potential. Creative or challenged, or Chinese, or trade-oriented students all should have the resources each needs to reach their potential. Focus on students not groups or communities.
A great 2008 article provides sourced (DOE) data to support your “Money does not guarantee a person will excel beyond their wildest dreams” statement, take notice of charts 4 and 5. It is arguable that more money doesn’t provide any value. I would suggest that spending less might be get more value. At this point you may think I’m crazy, let me explain later when I comment on solutions.
Your comment on character building within the school community is right on. That is the entire school community- those that fund, oversee, develop, work, and receive-everywhere related to schooling. But let us not forget character building starts at home-the right principles, the right examples; tell the whole story, not just the part that favors you, my folks use to say “a half truth is a whole lie and we don’t lie”; treat all with respect-even those you disagree, etc. The School’s job is to educate-of course if schools are staffed by people of good character, they will compliment the character built in our homes. The liars, cheats, or sexual predators have no place in our education structure. Your point that stewardship, open and honest communication, and respect given BY our school staff is also expected. An example of half truth, KatyISD has stated that they are not “unionized”. They are prevented by state law from excluding non-union staff from employment as Texas is a “Right-to-Work” state. However, teachers can be members of TSTA, an NEA affiliate or service union members. TSTA application raises some questions for KatyISD-how many TSTA members are on staff at KatyISD? Does KatyISD provide payroll deductions of TSTA dues as a service? Does KatyISD provide similar services to other associations or organization? If it look like a duck, sounds like a duck and walks like a duck; it is a duck! TSTA looks like a union, sound like a union, and acts like a union.
Getting the right mix of talents on a SB is up to us. Overcoming the weakness in a board profile is up to the SB. Certainly they have access to talents and skills they need. What I see missing is the will (leadership) to take control and do what is right not what ISD administrators want. Superintendents are CEOs and administrators are their management; SB controls with “goals to make” and “situations to avoid” and continually oversee the CEO and their management. IMHO oversight is not just CEO job evaluation, but questioning every proposal, all the data, and supportive and opposing opinions such that decisions are within the goals and avoid the unacceptable for the students.
OK, some possible solutions to think about, being a geek (that current speak for engineer), I am very technology oriented. Having spent 35 years in the private work place for major international companies, I am very free market capitalistic oriented. IMHO the solutions with the most promise depend on both technology and the free market. It must cost a lot less, reducing the number of public employees (hence it will be bitterly opposed by some politician, most teachers and almost all ISD management). It must focus on a goal of providing the teaching of each student with unique needs in education to be successful to advance to their maximum individual potential. Each student would have the opportunity to tailor their curriculum that assures their success, advancing only when they have demonstrated and documented the knowledge and skills in each course. There would be no need for TAK-like testing and certainly no teaching to the test. My proposed solution would open up many new market place jobs in IT and course development. The state would remain in control of curriculum, as well as qualification and continuing certification of course providers, as well as providing funding for each student directly to spend on their education needs (education spending accounts). ISD would exist as service providers for things like public transportation (much less will be needed), some local teaching situations and oversight of each student personal progress, and identifying yet-to-be developed needed resources. Mentors and personal teachers would be needed at the state or local level and could be provided by approved market providers and fewer centralized public employees. These are some of the benefits I would envision. There are barriers-needed and equal access to courses, the required emphasis and discipline on education in all homes and others.
Some foundations of the suggested solution are summarized in this article. There are examples of such a solution being tested today, School of 1 in New York (note Joel Klein comment about fewer and better paid teachers are in his plans), Florida Virtual School and Khans Academy (I have followed Khan for a few years, he recently got a lot of funding for development beyond just YouTube courses). I am not aware Texas has any testing of these concepts.
Changing from horse and buggy to hydrocarbon powered mechanical cars was tough, but reforming education ranks right up there with healthcare, but it got to be done or Texas and the US will decline.

Jim, Thank you so much for the inspired response. I sometimes wonder if anyone else is frustrated with the ISD situation. As a grandparent, I see so much room for improvement. Your comment about the will to do the right thing is dead on. We have a group of individuals who won’t buck the status quo. -Just an opinion.

They are good people, but the economic crunch dictates new oversight responsibility in decision making. As for the unions, I had not worded that properly. You are right about the associations. This is what the majority of the teachers and staff belong to – and the ones who advocate collective actions. The firing of so many teachers recently, was a horrible example of poor choices. The students and the teachers were all impacted by the drama.

Long winded, but necessary to let you know how much the input was appreciated.

I recently became friends with a retired school teacher. She received the Teacher of the Year award for Texas one year. She raised one of the points in your article. Why do students need to attend class in architectural wonders and have the most expensive stadium lighting? Why not a simple “little red brick schoolhouse?” I agree.

Additionally, time needs to be spent on the basics of education…spelling, reading, math, proper writing and sentence structure, etc.

If you compare the writings of our forefathers with the speech and writings of the youth today, it is shocking to see how far we have fallen.

This article is just what is needed for our future efforts. Were ahead in the first round and are preparing for the next one. It should prove very interesting.

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