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Letter to the Editor: Rockwood School Board Must Represent the Public

The following opinion was submitted by Rockwood parent Anne Gassel and the watchdog coalition Rockwood Stakeholders for Real Solutions.

The School Board cannot forget its duty to speak for the public. 

The education system and the educrats who inhabit it are fully prepared to protect and perpetuate that system. There are layers of administration which are packed full of experts on education and finance whose sole purpose is to keep the system running.

As soon as someone is elected to serve on the school board they receive “training” from the Missouri School Board Association. This training emphasizes how important it is to present a unified front to the public. Controversy is to be handled behind the scenes so that the board can appear confident and united in public meetings.

Where would such controversy come from?

It comes from people outside the system trying to get the system to do (or not do) something it doesn’t want to do. Thus, the school board members, in dealing with controversy away from the public become co-opted to be yet another layer that protects the system. Not only is this redundant and unnecessary, it is counter to the very reason school boards were established in the first place.

If the school board is there to protect and perpetuate the education system, who then speaks for the public, on policy, for example? A careful read of most district policy manuals shows that the policies are primarily designed to protect the district. Fair enough. In our litigious society the district needs some protection.

But when such policies don’t protect, or worse, harm our children, who speaks for them?

Concerns with district policies (e.g bullying,) tend to be addressed individually behind closed doors. Parents become a single voice against a very strong system. Other parents who have the same concerns do not know that they are not alone and many times are too afraid to go up against the system by themselves. A more public airing would bring to light the extent of the problem and solutions that the system may not have considered. If the school board is conditioned not to do this, the public has no voice and little chance to change poorly written, though well intended, policy.

It can be daunting to be a regular parent who wins a seat on the school board if you have little experience with the system. Therefore, it is logical for such board members to turn to the district’s experts for advice on what is the best delivery system of what educational standards. But those experts only consider what they believe is best from the system’s point of view; what is either most convenient, or causes the least amount of pain within the system.

Their recommendations may therefore be idealistic and very expensive.

Who is the voice that balances what the system wants in terms of delivery with what the public can afford, if not the school board? Who speaks for all the people who pay for the system without receiving any direct benefit from it because they have no children in public school, like empty nesters, newlyweds or those who choose to send their kids to private school?

The school board has an obligation to let the district experts speak and share their point of view on issues, but the board cannot forget its duty to speak for the public as well. Their role is to represent the public, often against the education system, because if they don’t do it, no one else can.

School board candidates who do not have a fundamental understanding of what the role of the school board is before they get on the board, will quickly be flipped to being a protector of the system.

We have only seven weeks to figure out how the school board candidates view their role as a board member. If we don’t elect candidates who understands what we are electing them to do, it will be business as usual.  

Anne Gassel
Rockwood Parent
Wildwood, Mo. 
anngie1984@gmail.com

Dennis Broadbooks February 27, 2013 at 10:08 AM
Thanks for the illuminating comments/insights, Anne. As usual, you've nailed it.

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