Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Role of A School Board, Part 1

On his blog, "10th Period,"  Stephen Dyer poses the question: "Should (a) Homeschooler Be On the State Board of Education?"

Mr. Dyer, an attorney and former State Representative from the Akron area, doesn't directly answer his own question, but the insinuation is that someone who does not send his own children to public school has no place on a public school board.

I believe this shows how much the role of a governing board is misunderstood, as well as who it is that those officeholders are supposed to be representing. Although having never met him, I trust that Mr. Dyer is an intelligent and well-educated person, but I sense he is one of those who believes that the role of a governing body, like a Board of Education, is to represent the interests of the institution.

That's exactly wrong.

The primary role of a governing board - and it doesn't matter whether we're talking about the US Congress or a local school board - is to represent the Voters in matters of the governance of the institution.

In the case of a public school district, it doesn't matter whether an elected member of the school board has kids in the public school, kids in a private school, kids who are home schooled, or no kids in school at all. The community of taxpayers who fund our schools spans all those groups, and all have a right to be represented on the school board.

According to the community survey performed in March of this year, 61% of the households in our community have no school age kids (Q23), and only 12% of those will be enrolling a kid in the next 5 years (Q24). Interestingly, three of the five current Hilliard School Board members - also 60% - have no school age kids in their household (Lisa Whiting, Doug Maggied and me). So in that dimension at least, our Board seems pretty representative of the community.

As the title of this article suggests, I have more to say regarding the role of a public school board, and will continue the conversation soon as part of my discussion of the recent School Board Retreat.


  1. Paul, what if the voters don't know what's best for them? What if the majority is selfishly motivated?

    I commend you for your efforts at increasing public participation over the years. But I'd rather listen to one coherent, rational voice than 100 opinions.

    But I'm glad you brought up the 7% of us that has no kids currently enrolled but will within 5 years.

    Personally, I think we are the segment that the Board targeting. In fact, I'd break that down even further to identify homeowners who have paid at least $20k in school property taxes.

    We're vested, somewhat captive in this housing market, and have the greatest incentive to protect the long term health of the school district.

    Weigh us accordingly....

    1. T - Maybe it is up to the voters to decide what is best for them, and not you...

  2. Hi T:

    On your first point - "What if the voters don't know what's best for them?" - I think this is the reason America has representative government in the first place. The Founders wanted all Americans to have a vote, but they didn't want us voting directly on legislation. They didn't even want us voting directly for President, which is why we have an Electoral College.

    My point here isn't really about that - the School Board members are the representatives of the voters, and it is those who serve on the Board who make the governing decisions, rather than the voters directly (except in regard to local funding). My point in this article is that a prerequisite for being a School Board member should not be that one has kids attending public schools.

    I understand your perspective about being invested in the school district, but of course that's really a sunk cost. What you've paid in the past in the way of taxes should not have a bearing on the decisions you make going forward. For example, if you decided that Dublin Schools are better than Hilliard Schools, and therefore sold your house here and bought one in Dublin, you might feel the taxes you've paid to date in Hilliard were wasted. But you get a compensating 'freebee' when you buy a house in Dublin - the benefit of all the taxes paid by other Dublin residents before you moved there.

    But you're right - the values of our homes are directly related to the perceived value of the school district.

    That kinda brings us back to full circle to a question I asked many years ago - how much do we want to spend as a community to run our school district? It's all about how many people we employ, and how much we pay them.

    At some point, we need to talk about things in those terms.

  3. Unrelated, but I totally don't get why McVey gets a leadership award. He presided over a period during which school taxes exploded and over which he seems to have done relatively little. He may be a friend and leader to the school teachers union, but he's certainly no friend to the Hilliard taxpayer. Giving McVey an award seems to be an imprimatur on the "business as usual" ethic that has plagued on local, state and national governments when it comes to spending.

    1. To be fair to the Superintendent, he operated within the bounds created by the decisions of the Board, and the funding provided by the community.

      I haven't always agreed with Dale McVey, but that doesn't mean I don't have respect for his ability to lead and manage (two different things) the kind of large and complex organization which is a public school district.

      Not many of us are given the privilege to lead a large organization with a budget the size of Hilliard City Schools. I have. That gives me some perspective from which to judge his performance, and I would give him high marks on many things.

      It will be no simple matter to replace Dale. I had hoped to be able to participate in the hiring of a new Superintendent upon his retirement.

      Wishing for it is one thing. The reality of having that responsibility is something else. I am eager to get started with the process, but sobered by the importance of the decision to all the stakeholders - the taxpayers, the teachers and staff, and most of all, the kids.

    2. Paul, you are being far too kind here.

      We both know that the board made no decisions, other than to effectively rubber stamp what he wanted to do anyway.

      To be fair to you I should emphasize for other readers that said rubber-stamping occurs as a result of a majority of board members agreeing to do so, leaving those that don't always agree little opportunity to effect change.

    3. You'll appreciate the post I'm working on right now - probably have up tomorrow...

  4. I wonder if Leslie will retire as well? If I were a betting man, I would predict she will.

    Replacing Dale will not be THAT difficult. I hope we find a leader that will foster a positive environment and will restore morale among the district's employees.

    1. A friend of mine who sits another another school board, and recently had to hire a Superintendent said this: "It's not hard to get lots of candidates for Superintendent, but it's hard to find a good one." I believe that.

      This will be no easy task, and there's an unusual number of very good districts looking at the same time.

  5. Paul, veering off topic here, but I was trying to decide on State Issues 1 & 2.

    I equate Issue 2 with the legislations the Farm Bureau initiated a few years back regarding animal care standards. I voted againtst that b/c I was uncomfortable with the process and it looked like a situation ripe for regulatory capture. But from the reports I've heard, it sounds like they may have set a good example about how to gather experts and come up with solutions.

    My hope is that Issue 2 will work out the same way. I think I am for it, but I hate that it feels so partisan....

    Issue 1- I'm inclined to seize this opportunity and see what happens. But without a third voice with a game plan, it's probably useless...


    1. Issue 1: to decide whether to hold a Constitutional Convention to make changes to the Ohio Constitution. Not a fan of this. It should be hard to change the Constitution in my opinion, requiring lots of analysis, debate, and public input. Of course, our Constitution is already under attack, eg the amendments that are so specific as to say a casino can be built in this town at this specific address. I just worry that if the whole thing is opened up at once, the consequences could be catastrophic. I'm voting NO on this one.

      Issue 2: Redistricting reform. I think it's ridiculous to think that this proposed new system for drawing legislative districts will be any less political that the system we have now. Parties in power like the current system, and parties out of power want it changed.

      The Dispatch did a pretty interesting editorial about this Issue. It convinced me to vote NO on this one as well.

    2. Paul, no offense, but that editorial is ridiculous. I've taken the liberty to destroy it below. I respect your perspective, but for me it comes down for or against the status quo. From that standpoint, I think I'm Yes on 2.

      "In short, this is one of the most poorly conceived ideas ever put before Ohio’s voters."

      That's really saying something! Shameless hyperbole? Check.

      "Touted as a way to improve the current system, State Issue 2 actually proposes a complicated, conflicted and unaccountable system that raises more questions than it answers. Many of those questions likely could be answered only by protracted and expensive lawsuits."

      Said the same thing about Livestock Standards Board (which appears to be working). Subjective reasoning? Check.

      "The measure would prohibit large classes of the most politically engaged and knowledgeable Ohioans from participating in the vital line-drawing process simply because they are officeholders and campaign contributors or are related to such a person."

      Dont vote for it because it prevents conflicts of interest? Not sure I'm buying this argument...

      "This commission will be supported by an unspecified budget to hire staff, set salaries and pay other expenses deemed necessary to perform its work. The governor’s office estimated this budget might be as much as $15 million, but no one knows how big a bureacracy might result and how much it might cost."

      Sounds a bit high (even if its every 10 years). What's the current process cost?

      "Compounding the measure's problems is that it calls for state appeals judges to winnow the candidates who will sit on the panel. This is an obvious separation-of-powers conflict, forcing the branch of government that is supposed to be nonpartisan and independent to participate in one of the most political of activities."

      So we dont want the branch of goverment that is supposed to referree the legislature to referree the legislature. Hmmm...

      "This would make judges the targets of political pressure and drive attempts to buy judicial favor with political contributions. Also, should the commission become involved in a lawsuit, the case could come before a court in which one or more judges was involved in creation of the commission, a clear conflict."

      How is this substantially different than the status quo? Is the integrity of the judiciary really that bad?

      "Not surprisingly, the Ohio State Bar Association, which represents the state lawyers and judges, and Ohio Judicial Conference, which represents state judges, quickly announced opposition to the measure."

      If the trial lawyers are for it, I'm pretty sure I'm against it, haha...

      "An analysis by the independent investigative-reporting organization ProPublica laid out how California Democrats, who have dominated state politics for decades and who unsuccessfully fought the reform, quickly figured out how to game the new system and manipulate the citizens’ commission that draws legislative boundaries."

      Irrelevant in my opinion. Difficult to compare Californai and Ohio politics.

      "State Issue 2 is an amateur production. Those who designed it — the League of Women Voters and several law professors —should have recognized the importance of enlisting allies from both sides of the aisle, yet they failed to build a bipartisan base of support."

      #1 Ad hominem. #2 likely scenario (sarc)

    3. Guess that's why we vote...