The subject of term limits has appeared so brightly on the local radar that it caused school board club member Vicki Snell to pen a commentary in the Daily Pilot and caused the club to take time to study this specific issue. To no one’s surprise they determined that term limits are not a good thing.

Now, we are seeing the term limits wagons circling around Trustee Karen Yelsey who will be leaving the school board club in a couple of years in order to keep her promise to serve only 12 years. Yelsey – one of their own – tried and failed to get term limits on the ballot after she was elected.

Term limits disrupt the status quo, which is what entrenched bureaucracies battle against every day. The N-MUSD administration and the school board club are fine examples of a bureaucracy that knows only one way of doing anything and that’s to do what they’ve done before.

The best latest example is the response that Cal El meeting attendees got when the bureaucrats in the front were asked how the principal selection process would be different enough so that it avoids the debacle at Mariners. The answer? “It’s not an exact science.”

The parents and taxpayers don’t need an exact science for this process, they just need something better than the process at Mariners. But that answer told us that we’re going to get the same old thing: Get some community input, act like you care, then pick whomever is going to toe the district line.

All the while, the bureaucrats in the back were furiously scribbling notes.

Term limits are not the solution to massive problems of accountability, transparency, and fiscal responsibility. They will help, but there is a deeper, more fundamental challenge.

That challenge is the reversal of a decades-old sense of entitlement and exclusivity that limits the true scope of possibilities. This is a group that is not only unable to see the forest for the trees, they are unwilling.

The challenge is the culture. And above that, the challenge is character. Does anyone doubt that if we had a panel of trustees with sufficient character that we would even be discussing term limits? Of course not.

We need term limits, but we really need a package of reforms that are needed to break the back of a culture that has, among other things, perpetuated a massive achievement gap in the N-MUSD and treated teachers like second-class citizens.

There are three seats up for grabs this fall. Even if the three incumbents lose, that is one short of a majority and culture-changing questions – if they even make it to the agenda – are likely to be sent down in flames by a 4-3 vote.

Ultimately, the threat of court battles by a law firm will accomplish the reforms that many of us have been advocating for many years but it won’t happen anytime before the November elections.

Would term limits have prevented the Gold Ribbon mess at Mariners? No. But term limits will help reduce the overwhelming air of complacency that created it.

Steve Smith