Deconstruct School Boards
Are we at a point where we truly need to examine the need to deconstruct school boards, as they currently function, with a new oversight-stakeholder engagement governance system? In light of national movements, coinciding with growth of special interest political groups, public schools all across the county have seen a surmounting special interest influence in our board of education chambers. This strategic hostile take over of the board chambers mirrors what we see at local, state and national political offices. The reality is the power, or willful relinquishing of, rests in the hands of the voters.
Franklin Graham’s vision should not be the starting point of a conversation. The fact there are clear pathways by which any singular special interest group can conceivably take control of an entire school district by getting a simple majority of their like minded people on the board of education, thus hijacking hiring, budgets, curriculum, student rights, teacher, rights, parent rights, inclusion, etc… is the real threat. The Jefferson County (CO) School District, one of the largest public school districts in Colorado, lived a similar experience and are trying to rebuild trust and pick up the pieces ever since. Several years ago the Board of Education strategically and methodically became a Tea Party majority. Once accomplished, this well organized, well funded and single minded majority took over control of the school district. They hired a superintendent who would carry out their directives then systematically began to deconstruct the school district to then reconstruct it to fit their ideology. Sadly, it was only after these actions began to impact parents’ children and the culture of their schools did the community begin to educate themselves on the actions and motives of the power caucus of the board. There was a successful recall of the majority members of the board thus the pendulum drastically swung again 180 degrees in the opposite direction. Is the Jeff Co Board and community any more immune to single minded majority rule now than they were before?
Schools should be immune, and build in protections to ensure immunity from single minded agendas, exclusive power or secular mindsets taking majority control of such a vital and inclusive institution- public education. There are many functioning school boards and thankfully many board members whose hearts and minds are with all of the students and parents of the school district and not influenced by exclusive ideology or are finance by PAC money. The threat to public schools is playing out across this county when people like Franklin Graham understand the vulnerabilities of the public school governance structure and how to exploit it.
Is it time to protect the fundamental commitment of public schools to be inclusive by taking steps to deconstruct school boards. More accurately, deconstruct school boards and develop a governance structure that embeds mechanisms that promotes a diversity of well intentioned opinions yet protects against special interest division. One that puts the power back into the hands of the experts- the superintendent, teachers, staff, students and parents. It would serve us best to analytically look at the past 10 years and identify the “trend line” of how special interest groups are infiltrating and taking over school districts. That data should start a conversation about how to deconstruct school boards as they exist today and replace them with governance structures that protects inclusive decision making.