I am relieved that the Legislature is reconsidering the proposal to disband local school boards and create large, centralized “education districts.” I hope that the proposal is allowed to just quietly go away. The initial reasons given for this major reorganization appear to be crumbling under scrutiny. The proposed redistricting will save money? Well, no, it will actually cost money. Students will have access to more educational opportunities? Well, it’s not actually clear how this will be automatically better than the efforts schools are currently able to make, and there certainly have not been any concrete proposals from the Legislature concerning exactly how opportunities will increase under the redistricting plan. Superintendents will have fewer meetings to attend? Well, a simpler solution than redistricting and doing away with local school boards would be to redesign how school board meetings are run.
I served on my local school board for nine years with four different superintendents, and it is my experience that the superintendent (and other central office personnel such as the business manager and director of special services) really does not have to be present at every meeting. Often, the superintendent would simply present the board with a monthly report and answer questions, something that could just as effectively have been done by sending the report to the board in advance. If there is an issue that requires the superintendent’s presence, then the superintendent should attend the meeting. But most of the time this just is not necessary.
So while I agree that some consolidation at the supervisory union level is needed (and towns such as Tinmouth are already moving in this direction in a grass-roots manner), I implore the Legislature to examine how fixing problems can be accomplished under the existing structure, which, while not perfect, still represents some of the best educational opportunities and small ”d” democracy available to us.
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