I’m all for local educational control. Authentic local control. We do not have authentic school board control in Missouri and I wager than many school districts in other states don’t have local control either. School districts must adhere to federal and state mandates and autonomy is eradicated and discouraged for local school boards. An entity to watch and research in Missouri and your state is your state school board association, a private association which uses tax dollars for its existence. You might find (as we are discovering in Missouri) that these associations do not protect taxpayers, but rather, they assume control that is not granted to them but is wielded over school board members.
Missouri school board members must undergo training to understand what their duties are and most boards look to the Missouri State Board Association (MSBA) for this information. Increasingly it seems as if MSBA is writing policy for school boards instead of being an advisory organization. Research your state school board association and determine its function for your school districts. It has become more of a regulatory association instead of training school board members to be effective voices for the citizenry which elected them. Tax dollars are spent for this training with this private organization. From a previous post:
You can see how much your district pays to belong to MSBA here. The amount is based on the budget of your school district. My district (Kirkwood) pays approximately $10,000 for MSBA’s direction and policy decisions. Why do we need a school board anymore? Maybe the education reformers are right. Just turn it over to private organizations directing how tax money is to be used. School board members increasingly are figureheads for private organizations funded by local taxpayers who think they are actually voting for members who set/direct policy for their districts.
The education reformers are increasingly calling for the demise of the local school boards. Local school boards don’t really do much other than hire/fire teachers and maintain physical property. If school board policy is being written by MSBA and the board members are following along adopting all the policies MSBA writes, then why do school boards exist?
From the Lake Sun: Do you think the current school board policy regarding public participation allows for sufficient opportunity for the public’s voice to be heard? Do you support the current policy or if elected would you seek to make changes to the policy? This policy represents a fundamental shift of the tax paying public’s ‘role’ in school affairs. It plainly seeks to use a questionable interpretation of law to stifle public input to the board, requiring an approval process that filters communications meant for the board through both school administration and school attorneys. This, to many parents, represents another step in a silent coup, preformed under the assumption of authority neither the administration, nor the school attorneys, have. A concerted effort has been made to reinforce the false logic that our representatives should somehow be ‘protected’ from hearing from the public and parents they serve.
Part of the new public comment policy, as recommended during an August visit from an MSBA lawyer, appears below. Camdenton adopted a policy that restricts the public from having open discussions with the board about their concerns, if those requests aren’t ‘approved’ by administration and attorneys.
7. Only items from the posted agenda may be discussed. If an individual seeks to address an issue that is scheduled to be discussed by the Board in closed session, the Board may require the person to hold his or her comments until closed session.
8. The Board may vote to suspend or amend these rules in extraordinary circumstances. The Board may impose additional rules as it deems necessary and reserves the right to alter the above rules depending on the circumstances. The Board reserves the right to cancel, reschedule or delay the public comment period at any time or delay comment on a particular topic. The Board may refuse to hear comments on a particular topic if advised to do so by legal counsel.
Paul Ellison writes how four of the five candidates support the MSBA’s policies of shutting down dialogue from the community:
“Protocol would be for the Board president and/or superintendent to respond to the patron on behalf of the district.” She went on to say, “If several questions come in on the same topic, then the item may be placed on the next board agenda.”
The Lake Sun described the email procedures, as laid out for them by France:
” Then, she told the board that emails would go to a mail distribution group, firstname.lastname@example.org, which would be sent to each board member along with the superintendent or a designee. “
And that: ” In most cases, the superintendent or administration will be the one to respond. “
The guidelines adopted for the district’s email policy contain restrictions that mirror, in practical application, those inserted into the inappropriately named ‘public comment policy’. The guidelines offered the Lake Sun by Camdenton’s administration, read as follows:
1. If you are providing Board members an e-mail address, all Board members by policy must sign the Authorized User Permit that staff and students must sign and Board member must agree to the same terms as staff and students.
This first policy restriction would allow, presumably, for the unfettered monitoring of emails between themselves and their constituents. It creates an environment worthy of the NSA in the Camdenton school district. It would allow complete access to all board member’s accounts, without cause, without warrant. Camdenton’s version of Big Brother, it can reasonably be assumed, is manned by school administration and the districts lawyers, the firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole.
Also from the Camdenton administration’s ‘guidelines’:
4. When information is sent via the generic Board@camdentonschools.org, the protocol is for the superintendent or Board president to respond on behalf of the district and to cc the Board the response so that the Board knows the patron has been corresponded with and what was said. If a Board member disagrees with the response or has questions, he or she is encouraged to immediately notify the superintendent and the Board president of that fact.
The last sentence in this ‘guideline’ is one that gives us pause, particularly when we consider the access and latitude granted the administration and its lawyers in regard to the distribution of emails in the first place. This assumption of authority, of determining which emails reach the board, is reemphasized throughout these ‘rules’ created by administration and their attorneys.
Number five of these ‘guidelines’ ensures that, even a board member can be denied the ability to add a topic or concern to the agenda. 5. Any Board member may ask that a subject is added to the Board’s agenda at the next meeting for discussion. The Board as a whole will ultimately vote when approving the agenda to determine if the issue will be discussed.
The last sentence of ‘rule’ #5 is particularly offending:
However, Board members are free to direct questions or concerns to the superintendent or Board president.
Number six in the list of guidelines:
6. A Board member who is not the Board president may correspond individually with a patron, but is required to indicate that the opinions expressed are his or her own and not the Board’s. A Board member is prohibited from using a district-provided e-mail address contrary to district policy or law or to violate district policy or law.
The key words and phrases in ‘rule’ number six are distressing. “Board member”, “prohibited”, “contrary to district policy” and “violate district policy”. These are words that place control of our school, not in the hands of our elected representatives, but into those of administration and attorneys. Many of these policies were crafted, approved and suggested by the attorneys for our school district and district administration. They are not rules of law, nor are should they be.
Rules nine and ten completes the usurping of power from the citizens in the Camdenton school district. They clearly illustrate the ongoing efforts to eliminate ‘local control’ over our school districts.
9. The superintendent or Board president in their discretion may not respond to messages from the same sender that are repetitive, or messages that are threatening or that use profane language.
10. The superintendent or Board president will not directly respond to messages involving litigation, potential or pending litigation, or a situation on appeal pursuant to district policies or the law.
In addition, the superintendent or Board president may not respond to messages if advised by the district’s attorney not to do so. However, the superintendent or Board president will acknowledge receipt of the message and notify the sender of the rules. These policies, designed to remove, control and suffocate the input of parents and tax payers, are the opposite of Barbour’s claims.
“Yes, I believe the recently-updated school board policy facilitates engaged communications with our students, parents and patrons. We truly want to hear from our public. It’s their school. We recently enhanced this school board policy with an email address so our patrons can access all board members at exactly the same time from our school district’s web site.
Yes, I support this policy. We will be monitoring its progress. We also will continue to be cognizant of new technology as it emerges to communicate with the public exemplifying transparency and participation.”
She also invited the public to “peruse” the school web site. Perhaps Ms. Barbour should have perused a dictionary for both the correct definition of transparency. To her credit however, Ms. Barbour didn’t dive under her desk like partner-in-crime, Jackie Schulte. Ms. Schulte used the question regarding the public comment policy shift to beat the drums of fear mongering. This fear mongering is based on the flawed legal interpretation that, somehow, the school board could be held liable for what a citizen says to them. This laughable notion is parroted by Schulte.
“Board members are responsible for protecting our staff and students; allowing anyone to speak on impulse could open the district to possible legal repercussions.”
Read about how the Board members are apparently working for the superintendent, not the other way around. The Board is supposed to represent the taxpayers who voted them in, not acquiesce to the superintendent….who the Board hires! Since when does a board take orders from an employee of the District?
Read about conflict of interests between board members and companies performing services for the district. Read about the law firm that represents and advises Camdenton School Board and decide if you think board policies are supporting the taxpayers or special interests. Read how this board is adopting policy written by the law firm that may very well be illegal. Read more here.
Call your school district and find out which law firm is representing your district. Determine if your board policies are copyrighted and directed by MSBA. If most of your policies have been written by MSBA and suggested by your legal representative to be adopted, ask your board members if they are aware of the implications of denying citizens freedom of speech.
Policies written by private organizations supported from tax dollars are developing/directing educational policy for local school boards. Sounds like the NGA/CCSSO writing Common Core standards, doesn’t it? We might as well abolish our school boards and state educational agencies and just shovel the taxpayer dollars to private organizations and forget this charade of local control because it doesn’t exist.