Saturday, September 06, 2008

Wanted: Board Leader

The MNPS Board of Education needs to pick its next chairman. David Fox, it is being reported by the City Paper, is interested in the job. No doubt this will enable him to work closely with School Superintendent Mayor Karl Dean on reforming the system. I'm not opposed to that partnership. What we're doing isn't working let's try something different.  I always felt like Fox had more to offer the system than most of the Board members who either come from the system itself and are unable to hold their former co-workers/union members accountable or are willing to just warm the seat and collect the check. 

“I’m hopeful that the position of a board member evolves into something more resembling a traditional board position of other large organizations, so that we don’t disqualify such a large portion of the community here who have full-time jobs,” Fox said. “There will always be an infinite number of activities that board members can get involved with, if they choose to. It will be up to an individual board member to manage some of it. But I think there are parts of it that could be better contained.”
He does have a point. The BOE had become nothing more than a rubber stamp for the administration and regularly failed to critically examine the work done by their one employee, the superintendent. They give too much of their finite time to faux community input with their one hour "linkage" sessions with organizations that already have standing in the system and not enough time engaging in real public participation by allowing discussion with citizens who are granted a mere three minute audience before them. Time spent attending conferences, ribbon cuttings and graduations does not equal a job well done when so many of our students won't make it to that new school or graduation ceremony--or when their diploma only leads to remedial classes at college. 

The Board Chair is the public voice of the Board but too often the statements from the Chair were outrageous disconnects from reality. They seemed to be more concerned about defending appearances than admitting the truth of the situation and legitmately assuring taxpayers, voters and parents that they were actually working on solutions. 

And that was the rub---actually working. Fox is right again in saying that anyone with a full time job or running their own business finds it difficult to participate in the process because of the enormous amount of unproductive time being a BOE member requires. No one has had the sense to actually say---"This is a huge waste of time which could be better spent on other tasks".  This time wasting is a product of the education culture which believes that time in seat equals and educuation, seniority equals a pay raise and everyone is on salary and gets paid whether they produce or not. 

I am concerned that Fox doesn't appear have the inclination to take the reins of leadership and move the Board toward change in as agressive a manner as may need to be done. He's got a lot of dead weight to move around and it's going to take some firm resolve and willingness to inconvience and perhaps even offend in order to move this Board, and MNPS forward. In the aftermath of Garcia, offending, may be a touchy subject but there is a difference between his 'culture of fear' and insisting that we focus, stay on task and get things done as quickly as possible. The education of these children can't be paused while the adults hold meetings and take their time figuring out what to do. The educational clock of these students is ticking and the BOE clock should tick twice as loudly regardless of whether that's inconvenient or offensive.

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