A recent post supporting four new trustees touched on a subject that is at the heart of this local education revolution.
The fact that trustees, Dana Black, Judy Franco (leaving the board this year), and Martha Fluor have each been in power for decades would be palatable if not for one thing: We are not making enough progress.
Worse, the newbies, Vicki Snell and Charlene Metoyer have followed the lead of the veterans and choose to operate by doing what has always been done. I am not the only person who has expressed particular disappointment in Metoyer, whom some thought would bring at least a modicum of reform to the board. But that hasn’t happened.
Then there is Trustee Karen Yelsey, whose credibility is in question over her shifting position on term limits. Yelsey is on the record as having advocated 12-year terms when she ran in 2006 and she is on the record as a supporter of Measure H, which would limit trustee terms to 12 years.
But she is running again and a victory would give her a 16-year term. I wish Yelsey had applied her 12-year advocacy to herself, but that’s not unusual for politicians. History provides plenty of examples of politicians who say they won’t run for something but do, or shift positions for one reason or another.
The most memorable for me is Richard Nixon’s huff to reporters that “…I want you to know—just think how much you’re going to be missing. You won’t have Nixon to kick to kick around anymore because gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”
That was in 1962.
No, the 12/16-year term thing doesn’t bother me as much as Yelsey’s failure to own it. Instead of denying her support of 12-year terms, I wish she had just said. “I truly believed when I ran in 2006 that 12-year terms were sufficient. And I believed that when I extended my support for Measure H. But I realize now that both decisions were hasty and that there are many benefits to the community by serving longer.”
I wouldn’t have agreed with her, but at least it would have been a rational justification.
Out with the old, in with the new
The trustees operate from an old manual, one that says that they are not supposed to roll up their sleeves or get their hands dirty doing the work that staffers are paid to do. But we have seen firsthand how the trust in the so-called experts has been misplaced and that we need a shift to trustees who are more involved than in the past.
That involvement starts with simple steps such as asking substantive questions during and after a presentation; questions involving best practices, before committing precious resources to a new system, product, or program. Instead, we get superficial, tactical probes such as the ones we heard when the Raptor identification system was presented last month.
We need a new type of trustee. We need trustees who are more aligned with the new lightning speed of child development and communication and who put a true high value on gathering true input from teachers, parents, and taxpayers before making key decisions.
That new type of trustee is exemplified by Ashley Anderson, a candidate in Area 7. Anderson is tech-savvy and understands the role of the various devices and forms of communication we use today and how they can or cannot play a part in a child’s education.
Oh, yes, and student input, too. That novel idea is being advanced by Yelsey’s challenger, Dr. Gina Nick. Out of all of the campaign statements I have heard, Nick’s proposal to pull students into the decision-making process in a meaningful way is the most exciting and the most sensible.
Oh, how easy it would be. Student representatives are present at each board meeting. They get up and talk about what is happening at their schools – nothing controversial – then wait for an exit cue.
Why not engage them at that time? Why not ask them, for example, what THEY think of the AP math plan, or the collegiate calendar, or the use of smartphones, or bullying or any of the other key issues we face?
Why not? Here’s why not: Because that’s not how it’s done, that’s why.
And that is precisely why we need new ideas and new leadership on the school board. The old way of doing things is just that – old – and the longer we wait to elect new trustees the further behind we will be.
If you need proof, just look at the recent measly 1% increase in test scores that was revealed on Oct. 2. After all of the ballyhoo about this program and that progress, we not only got that measly 1% but worse, no one on the board or the administration seems to care. In fact, it’s the opposite: They tried to spin it as progress.
The bar is being lowered, not raised.
Time’s up. Meaningful change starts by voting for these people:
Area 2: Michelle Murphy
Area 4: Dr. Gina Nick
Area 5: Michelle Barto
Area 7: Ashley Anderson