Division within the ranks leading to loss of control.

Want to thank the folks who continue to support me out there, and this post is something I put together originally for a DSBA newsletter. I think my tone maybe a little too strong for it so I am posting it here as I think its a message that needs to get out.

Most board members are enjoying the summer break, and some are dealing with changes in membership after the elections. Next month plans will begin to take shape for the up coming school year and I’d like to talk about some issues that I think put school boards in a poor light with the public. A couple of years ago I had put together a series of articles for the DSBA newsletters, and since that time I have begun to see how the changes in Education have tested both seasoned and newbie board members. When I joined the Milford Board back in 2002, the biggest issue was NCLB and the boards were struggling to understand how ~6% of our budgets caused 100% of our work. Now we struggle with another federal acronym, RTTT that again has garnered the attention of educators up and down the state of Delaware.
Worst part about this new program is that it has caused divisions between many of the stakeholders of Education, and has even lead to a perceived lack of cohesiveness between boards of education up and down the state. This lack of cohesiveness may be why when it came to being a part of the discussions for RTTT it seemed like boards were not represented well at the table. Now as we struggle to understand and work within our districts to make the SOWs “more focused and measurable” all boards of education up and down the state need to refocus and come together. One part of being a board member we sometimes forget is that we are advocates that have a voice, and if we put those voices together it garners more attention then if single members speak!
For years we have all attended meetings up and down the state where we whispered to our fellow Sussex, Kent, or New Castle county boards members that, “ you know that bunch in such and such county does not understand our needs!” I’m guilt as anyone, but the recent issues of RTTT have made me look at how those thoughts have fed into the public’s vision of uneducated board members out of touch with their stakeholders and rubber stamping spending. It has also given the idea to the Governor and his education staff that board members are not on the same playing field as superintendents, teachers associations, or business leaders, and therefore, including us in decisions is an after thought sometimes.
As we move closer to the start of the 2010-2011 school years we need to face the facts that if we as both new and older board members don’t come together and remember why we do what we do there are the real possibility we will loss local control of our children’s education! To that end I want to remind you of some key ideas that we some times forget:

• Educated citizens are essential to a democratic society
• A public education system is the cornerstone of a democratic society
• The public education system of Delaware must provide the opportunities and resources for all students to learn
• Parental and community involvement are important to school and school district planning, resource acquisition and system evaluations
• Effective school district leadership involves working effectively with stakeholders
• The school board is accountable to its public for student learning in a safe and healthy environment
• The school board is accountable to its public for fiscal management of its resources as well as compliance with state and federal rules and regulations
• Sustained school improvement is essential
• Schools and school districts are complex systems
• Personal and school board codes of ethics are essential in guiding board actions

To meet these needs and continue showing the importance of local control each of us as individuals and as strong association members needs to continuously focus on our:
• Vision
• Structure
• Advocacy
• Accountability
• And Ethics


About Gary M Wolfe

The Author spent 10 years as a member of the Milford Delaware Board Of Education, and is currently seeking the 18th Senatorial seat in the Delaware Legislature.
This entry was posted in Delaware Politics, Education. Bookmark the permalink.

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