Thursday, March 6, 2014

Bigger Than Tweets

Tuesday, February 25th was a long evening for our local reporters, striving to keep us up to date on candidate filings before the deadline. On the Board of Education race, the following tweets came at the end of the evening:

@SaraAToth: Will post these names again tomorrow, but in the meantime, your #HoCoMD school board contenders are ...

@SaraAToth: Bess Altwerger, Corey Andrews, Tom Baek, Zaneb Beams, Olga Butler, Allen Dyer, Maureen Evans Arthurs, Sandra French, Dan Furman ...

@SaraAToth: Leslie Kornreich, Christine O'Connor, Mike Smith and Cindy Vaillancourt.

@SaraAToth: Whoops, so that's 13 candidates. Missed Olga Butler the first time around. She ran unsuccessfully in 2012.

Wow. It took four whole tweets to make the full announcement. And that was before the "Siddiqui Switcheroo". I am excited to see the interest in the Board of Education race. And now I need to start learning about the candidates.

You might assume, from both my background and blog posts, that support for music programs will be the litmus test with which I judge them. Not so. Just as I wrote, in reference to teachers, "It's Not About the Money", I want to assert, in reference to the Board of Ed, "It's Not About The Music".

It is about transparency. Inclusion of stakeholders. Respect for the administrators, teaching professionals, staff, parents, and students that make up our school system. The reason we have an elected board of education is to ensure that the community's voice is heard. If our elected officials abdicate their responsibility to be fully informed and fully involved, then we have a Superintendent and Central Office Staff with absolute power.

You know what they say about absolute power.

Oh, I have heard the arguments about micromanaging, and I'm not buying them. The Board of Education is to direct the Superintendent, not the other way around. If you want to see micromanagement, a great place to look would be the CA board. I remember attending a meeting early on in Phil Nelson's tenure where they had him sitting at a little table by himself, as though he were a bad child in the Time-Out Chair. He never got to speak one word for the entire meeting. That is micromanagement, and it can be pretty scary.

I think we have a loooong way to go before we are in danger of anything even remotely close to that on the Board of Education. In our American way of thinking, systems like this should have checks and balances to preserve a balance of power. Our elected members of the Board of Education should be our advocates. If all the power is generated top-down, then our democratic system is thwarted.

There was a time, not too long ago, when the community felt downright disgusted by drama, disagreements and infighting on the school board. It seemed that having a school board that could achieve the appearance of professional courtesy was the most progress anyone could hope for. But if the appearance of outward civility is masking suppression of opinion, disregard of parents, and intimidation of teachers and administrators, then what progress have we really made?

We shouldn't, of course, hire a superintendent and then not allow him or her to do the job. But we also shouldn't elect Board of Education members and not expect them to do theirs. So as the election season gathers momentum, I am asking the biggest question: what do they think that job is?


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