Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Why council members and their votes matter

Yesterday's blog entry spurred an interesting response/question in the comment section:

"I'm not sure how holding individual members accountable for their positions on specific issues after a vote is taken would benefit the school or its owners. So, given that [that's] the current practice, can you explain how this would benefit the school and community?"

I guess three words sum up my views: accountability, and informed voters.

Many organizations and countries elect leaders only infrequently -- and sometimes those leaders won't ever seek re-election. But that doesn't relieve them of the responsibility to put their money where their proverbial mouths are. People whose lives may be affected by policy decisions have, in my view, a natural interest in knowing how their leaders think.

But better than my personal views, maybe it's helpful to consider what happens when communities don't pay attention to their school boards and their past votes. Click here to read about Pennsylvania's Upper St. Clair school board's decision last month to cancel the district's International Baccalaureate (IB) program -- against the wishes of many in the community....and against good, common sense. Then, read community letters, most expressing dismay -- and often the opinion that informed, educated voters who had done their due-diligence on board candidates could have avoided the fiasco. Interestingly, this is a school board that apparently takes votes without asking its members to put their names on the line.... (Have a look at the meeting minutes from that fateful day.)

Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but at the end of the day, I think that anyone in a position of power who makes important decisions about educational policy should feel confident enough in his or her position to put a name on it. If I'm wrong in council's view, I can live with that. I'll just keep showing up at the monthly meetings and watching the proceedings with my own eyes.

Hope all's well with everyone. And on a totally unrelated note, the joint PEL/PIE production of The Wizard of Oz was fantastic! The families of the cast and crew -- and the JIS community as a whole -- should be so proud!


At 5:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cheryl, I totally agree with you. I understand that there are items that need to be discussed in closed session but I think that the owners should be able to see an agenda of what the topics are for closed session. And in my opinion (which by the way no one asked for) I think the agenda's for both open and closed session should be posted on the web site so anyone interested could look and decide if they really wanted to go to the council meeting or not. I also think that we should be able to see how individual council members vote so we know where they stand on certain issues and I don’t understand why they would be opposed to that. It is my understanding that under the Carver model they should strive be open and transparent and encourage dialogue from the owners. Having secret agenda’s only creates distrust. I think JIS is a good school but it could be a GREAT school!


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