Here's some truth that folks need to keep in mind from CM Randy Foster (District 27-Edmondson Pike):
Council member Randy Foster said he believes the people of Davidson County need to be more active in the school board election process, and that some school board members should be more receptive to needs of constituents.Foster is right BOE members don't see themselves as the usual political figure. Part of that is by design. Part of that is because they are rarely held accountable.
Once elected, Foster said, board members “don’t see themselves as political figures,” and tend to “step out of the lives of their constituents and become a governing board on Bransford Avenue.”
“I do hope the citizenry will pay attention to what is going on. … We almost sleepwalk through our Board of Education elections,” Foster said. “The solution doesn’t lie at Bransford Avenue. … The solution lies in every house in Davidson County.” Nashville City Paper
My orientation session for School Board members in 2006 included an overview by Ralph Schulz about the Policy Governance way the school board was being run. I'll quote from my previous blog post here:
Board member Kathy Nevill made a clarifying point when she said that frequently people expect BOE members to act like council members and fix the ‘pot holes’ of the educational system. However, under this policy governance model that really isn’t done. That’s not to say a BOE member can’t inquire about the ‘pot hole’ but the intention is that the BOE member help the constituent work the system and when it comes time to evaluate the Director of Schools they will have to answer for repeated failures in that ‘pie wedge’ [area of responsibility]
Policy Governance discourages the BOE member from getting 'hands on' involved in any situation. That makes it easier on the central office and the BOE member who does tend to sit above it all and point out they only have three jobs:
1. Hire a director of schools,
2. Approve the budget,
It's exceptionally frustrating for anyone wanting action taken by the BOE or an individual member. By subjecting themselves to Policy Governance they've created a calmer environment but also unlinked BOE members from their districts. They no longer 'own' them and so they aren't responsible for the condition of their districts. The BOE could dump Policy Governance with a vote...but aren't likely to when they get so much benefit out of it.
Something else that could be helpful is to hold BOE elections in the fall. Having them in August when school is out of session, folks are in summer mode and/or on vacation doesn't encourage participation by any except those with all summer off to work on campaigns.
BTW Foster's website , while needing a bit of updating, is pretty good. It'd be nice to see more like this.