school board abuse of power
Rogue is a superhero in comic books. But on school boards, rogue members are more likely to be villains. School boards are the liaison between a superintendent and school sites. They also represent the general population of the district.
Cases in the News: School boards vs. residents
Conflicts between school boards in the United States and their communities were the news of 2014. Conflicts between school boards and their communities made headlines in the United States, such as the teacher strikeout in Jefferson County, Colorado, and the student walkout. These stories center on citizen, teacher, or student opposition to board policies. There is less conflict on school boards in the country: A board member or more members who abuse their power, or have in any other way deviated from the board’s purpose.
This act can cause conflict between school board members, district administrators, and principals. Administrators and principals who are dealing with difficult school boards can face long-lasting and pervasive problems in their schools and the entire district.
Ideal school boards should work together to help students
A school board’s primary purpose is, in general speaking, to facilitate the operation of a school system. The public elects school board members because they act for the public. Despite their differences in opinion, members of the school board need to work together with teachers and administrators.
The most effective school board members don’t hesitate to speak up for their beliefs, but they also understand that their role is to establish policy, procedures, goals, and policies for the school district. They also have to effectively manage the budget and major hiring decisions. These members also realize that they should perform these functions as a group and not on an individual basis.
A rogue member of a board
Terry O’Banion, a higher education leader consultant, says that school boards made up of single or multiple members can cause “enormous harm” and are not open to their electorate. O’Banion, in an article for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, identifies how school board members can hinder a school’s ability to serve its students.
- Refrain from requesting ideas from the school superintendent
- Conducting in a manner that is contrary to the written or unwritten rules of conduct
- Students should not support policies that aren’t in their best interest
- Inappropriate deals made with faculty members or other board members in return for favors
- Infringing the board’s code of ethics
There are many options for citizens, teachers, and administrators to take when confronted with a rogue member. Every school district should have an educational mission that can be used to evaluate the actions of its entire school board. This can bring together disparate members and remind them to work towards a common goal: the best interests of the school district.
A code of ethics should be adopted by school board members
Board members can be assured of their expectations by creating a code for ethics and mandating that all school board members adhere to it. While board members often call for administrator and teacher evaluations, it is important to remember that all school boards should be routinely evaluated. To control rogue board members, it is important to create a district policy that supports evaluations.
Teachers, administrators, and citizens should all be aware of the behavior of school boards. As the school board reviews and evaluates themselves, it is helpful to keep good records and record violations of policy by individual members. It is important that the public can attend school board meetings, or that local media have easy access, if necessary.
Voters need to monitor activity at schools boards
Chalkbeat Colorado’s education reporters Nick Garcia and Nic Garcia were at the forefront of Jefferson County school boards’ conflicts concerning teacher pay, curriculum review, and teacher pay. Their reporting had a profound impact on the community’s involvement in the Jefferson County school boards and was a great way to examine the actions taken by individuals.
Remember that a majority of school boards are elected by popular vote. It is important to recall or refuse to re-elect poor-performing school board members if a member of the school board has gone rogue.
Administrators, teachers, board members, and others should be informed about all candidates and willing to support a rogue candidate. Recall elections are costly and time-consuming. This is particularly important in non-presidential years when a candidate with a large base could be elected because of low voter turnout. It is important to establish healthy ways of dealing with rogue board members in the interim. This will help protect a district from serious and long-lasting damage.