School boards garnered national recognition recently for contributions to local communities. However, from Kansas to Pennsylvania to Palm Beach and the cover of the Sunday AJC, the press and the public have recognized something more.
From coast to coast, explosive board meetings, deceitful practice, collusion with vendors and just plain corruption by some boards have given lawmakers pause for reflection: Can school boards effectively manage schools and safeguard best practices and accreditation? Can the politics of micromanagement, race-colored glasses and low brow name-calling result in student success?
Aren't school boards really about setting policy, ensuring accreditation and student success when all is said and done?
For-profit management companies wonder as vouchers and special schools legislation loom omnipresent on the public education scene. Who says term limits are a bad thing? At some point hierarchies of perceived power and rules of decision-making become so inbred with midnight reversals and insider phone calls that it becomes hard to tell a sinner from a saint.
The public is losing faith in elected school boards nationwide as is played out with shotguns in Florida boardrooms and shrinking dollars channeled into general fund budgets.
In 2011 Georgia school boards completed required training through Senate Bill 84 to ensure that board members do not micromanage school superintendents. School board members by law of SB 84 should not participate in micromanaging superintendents in their duties or appointments.
But violations of this law run rampant and oftentimes by those professing the highest moral fiber.
Can you imagine being evaluated on a large number of competencies while at the same time being told when to move to the left or to the right when your collective expertise tells you which way to move, yet suddenly you're cuffed by low brow cronyism, leaving a naive public to speculate on your leadership?
These actions violate SB84 which aimed to rein in backroom dealing and nefarious oversight. Ironically, those who hold others to the strictest interpretation of law often operate under a loose interpretation of their own.
Communities need good boards that work in teams, respect Open Meetings and Open Records Acts and foster transparency with taxpayers as opposed to re-election grandstanding and late night showdowns of political bravado and false allegations of closed session leaks.
The drama makes voters bored of education, causes projects to lag behind and spurs action toward vouchers in Louisiana, Michigan, Indiana and Georgia. The money is leaving public schools fast, and bad school board behavior is not lost on legislators.
After all, we don't want Mark Twain to be proven credible when in 1897 he wrote: "God made the Idiot for practice, and then He made the School Board."
Given his contempt for elected bodies, Twain may have agreed that the only use for a school board is to steady the ship as public education gets pulled and yanked from every platform. But then again he might not have found much use for them at all.
Jeff Meadors represents District 1 on the Newton County Board of Education. He may be reached at Jeffrey.firstname.lastname@example.org.