You know that you can’t have it both ways. I know it, too. But this simple concept seems to have escaped the N-MUSD, which has just gone on record as having it both ways.

In last Tuesday’s 10-minute recap of the history of N-MUSD elections, school board club member Martha Fluor denounced those who had the audacity to speak up about the many problems in our schools, but who chose not to run for a seat on the board.

Fluor repeatedly asked, “Where were YOU?” as if running for a seat on the school board is the only way to become a change agent in the district. Tell that to Erica and Jeff Roberts, Laurie Smith, Jen Brooks, and the many other parents, teachers, and just plain ol’ taxpayers who successfully lobbied to end the math program.

They did what the administration and the school board club could not or would not do a few years ago, without campaigning.

Interesting, isn’t it, how it has taken Fluor decades to complain about the lack of opponents? She never complained about it all those years she ran unopposed, nor did any of her colleagues. They liked it, and Fluor should be honest about this and admit it. Having no opposition makes their lives much easier and give them the perception that they are doing such a good job that there is no need for anyone else to run. A nice ego boost.

So why now? Why, after all this time is Fluor suddenly so concerned about the lack of challengers?

The answer is that term limits are now a distinct possibility. Term limits are an attack on the status quo and as an entrenched bureaucracy, the school board club will go all out to fight.

But there is a major flaw in Fluor’s presentation, one that was highlighted by the superintendent, who unwittingly made the case for term limits when it was his turn to speak. Here’s the link to a video of the meeting. The super’s comment start around 3:35:00:

Shortly after Fluor complained that far too few people run for school board seats, the superintendent said, “The reason that many school boards choose not to do term limits is that they can’t find people to run.”

This is an attempt at cause and effect. Enact term limits and you’ll find that too few people will want to run.

But hold on here… The district does not have term limits now and according to Fluor, too few people run. So, which is it?

The answer is neither. As we know from our own district, term limits are NOT the reason too few people choose to run for school board seats.

There are two reasons that more people do not run for seats on the school board, reasons that can be applied to nearly every school district in the state. The first is that the pool of interested citizens is considerably smaller than those who would run for, say, a city council position. School board candidates are usually limited to those who are already involved in schools, often because they have kids who are students. People who do not have kids in schools don’t pay much attention to what is going on the the district unless there is a scandal.

The other, more important reason that more people do not run is because they can’t afford it. A board position pays about $450 plus health care. Most people work and earn far more than that and the “salary” for a school board seat would be a hardship. This is the reason why I have made multiple recommendations to change the compensation rules.

The low compensation is such a barrier that the school board club needn’t worry about any major change in their structure due to term limits or area representation. Future candidates will probably be clones. And they like it that way: Do you see anyone pounding their shoe on the dais demanding a living wage so that working class people can afford to run?

No, you don’t.

It may be a good idea for the superintendent and Fluor to have a short meeting and get the message straight. On second thought, it doesn’t matter: Enacting term limits won’t change who runs or how often.

And that will suit the board just fine, despite Fluor’s complaints to the contrary.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD