When I found out that Sue Robins was running for CCUSD School Board, I contacted her immediately and asked her to put a sign on my lawn. I’d never done anything so “political” in my life! I did it without much thought; to me, it seemed that the teacher that my younger son thought had been one of his best would be a good person to have on our school board. I have Kathy Paspalis’ sign out as well. In our little town of Culver City, where “everyone knows your name,” the signs seem to be an effective means of support.
Politics scare me, though. The minute I gave my two endorsements, I saw my name appear on the internet highway for more than just my humble articles for this publication. I was brought up to worry about such things; we never signed petitions in my house (and I still won’t), for fear of unknown repercussions. Members of my oft-persecuted ethnicity sometimes worry about this stuff.
Many of us at Culver City Middle School were also excited by the prospect of having one if our (former) own run for school board. Many also felt disappointed when the union that is supposed to represent teachers’ voices in such matters ended up endorsing other people. In an election with many excellent candidates, and the ability to vote for as many as three of them, it seemed that Sue Robins could have at least been one of their endorsement choices.
Be that as it may, I know that Sue possesses intelligence, and the ability to get things done. I experienced this first hand as her colleague for a while, and I think these attributes are important for a board member to have. Perhaps I should be more informed about these things, and have spent time going around to hear everyone speak. While I actually like the Facebook ads that pop up for the candidates, I find the fancy flyers sent to my home an abhorrent waste of paper.
I have sometimes wondered what it would be like if school districts were not even run by boards or committees at all. With the kind of (what I believe to be excellent) district management team we currently have in place, I think that school districts can also be run like well-oiled Fortune 500 Companies, dedicated to the business of producing zero-defect high school graduates.
Fortune 500 companies do have boardrooms to answer to as well. But, companies are not held back for line item type decisions, like whether to take a field trip or not or, whether or not to ratify the hiring of an employee. In my ten year tenure here, after twenty years in the business world, I have seen what I thought should have been site level decisions having to wait for board meetings. I have been to meetings, and witnessed the school board getting involved in minutia, instead of saving their time and energies for big picture decisions like capital expenditures or hiring superintendents. If I am stepping into the arena of endorsing board members, while I am at it, I will say that I feel duties assigned to board members should be streamlined.
I also believe that board members should not be voted in by a public of residents with often limited knowledge of our schools. I’d rather see them voted in by direct stakeholders. It would even be interesting if they actually all were direct stakeholders themselves. My perfect board would always include a teacher, a parent, a resident (property owner), a private enterprise owner, and, get this: a student. At first, I thought if I said this, I’d be discredited as crazy, but, a quick web search reveals several school boards across the country with voting student members!
Requirements for the student board member would be as follows: age 16-18, 3.8 GPA or higher, consistent prowess on state tests, a resume full of extracurricular leadership activities, a stellar attendance record, and work and/or volunteer experience, plus sports and/or arts involvement. I figure this would be the type of student that Stanford would consider, and I have met a few such students, in my capacity as Gifted and Talented Coordinator, parent and resident here. We already do have student reps who attend our board meetings, but, this would be an active, voting, member.
I like to at least be consistent, and if I have voiced my belief in student leadership in many of my articles; I’d be remiss not to bring it up here as well. In any case, an invocation: may the best people win in this fierce election!