Friday, February 18, 2011

Our Duties and Responsibilities in Education

If we lead with contradictions we miss-lead. We must speak, act and vote from a perspective of each of our own individual testimony's; guided by the core desire to improve life for all Americans. When it comes to educating and raising our children, being influenced by the contradictory manipulations of a political campaigning machine; built to sway groups of voting lemmings; can not enter in to the sensibilities required to update an aging and failing education system which has not significantly changed it's method of educating in over 50 years.

A friend of mine, whom I respect a great deal, recently announced he was running for a position within his local school board.
"By state legislative enactment, local school boards are delegated power and authority to develop policies, rules, and regulations to control the operation of the schools, including system organization, school site location, school finance, equipment purchase, staffing, attendance, curriculum, extracurricular activities, and other functions essential to the day-to-day operation of schools within the district's boundaries. Boards may also be authorized by the state legislature to levy taxes, invest resources, initiate eminent domain proceedings, acquire land, and assume bonded indebtedness." - education.com
Duties and Responsibilities ( http://www.education.com/reference/article/school-boards-duties-responsibilities-decision/?page=2 )
"In most states, it is the local board that is fully charged with the responsibility to establish and maintain a basic organizational structure for the local school system, develop curriculum, meet federal and state mandates for public schools, appoint a superintendent and key members of the central office staff, adopt an annual budget, and create a climate that promotes educational excellence. Consequently, school boards initiate educational policies at the local level and have a responsibility for implementing a variety of state and federal policies. These boards provide important administrative oversight relative to the educational policies and programs they institute; play a central role in establishing systems and processes to ensure the school system's fiscal, programmatic, and outcome accountability; and undertake broad human resource functions that include making crucial decisions regarding the district's top-level leadership and key staff. Finally, school boards provide leadership for the local school system, adopting a unifying vision and mission, soliciting and balancing the participation and input of members of the community, and advocating on behalf of the educational needs of children at the local, state, and national levels."
Impacting the future of education in this state and around the country is an incredibly difficult challenge, one that is hard to even find a starting point for.
"A host of contemporary concerns present challenges to the local school board's pivotal role in the governance structure in American public education. These challenges include declining public confidence in public schools; limited financial and operational support; changing demographics; perceived drops in student achievement and performance; persistent student attrition or dropouts; reports of crime and violence in the school setting; and adversarial relationships with employee groups." - education.com
I am frustrated by the notion that running for a position on any school board in this state or country is unlikely to yield on opportunity which it is "all about the kids". It is after all an elected position on a large governing body. Therefore, it is very similar to those groups many of us have seen within even large religious organizations. As most of us have inevitable witnessed, they often seem to be less about God and more about the elevation of man's ego.

There are over 7,000 elected school board members in Texas. Out of a total of 1,068 school boards in Texas, 1,062 boards are members of TASB.

Given all the current budget short falls which are being published around the state, the latest slogan every school board is expected to follow is, "Do more with less". Reminds me of a similar slogan NASA adopted years ago in the face of it's federal budget cuts, "Faster, cheaper, Smarter". In their case they truly acted and made the most of this new set of philosophies, yielding some of the most compelling and effective space and research missions their field had ever scene.
"Given the variety of policy considerations for school boards, the decision-making process of the board will vary depending upon the issues addressed, the parties involved, and the organizational interests, operational procedures, time constraints, and personal values of the decision makers. School boards are political organizations with members elected to serve a broad constituency. Decision-making in this environment is a highly political process in which coalition building, bargaining, competition, and adaptation are common." - education.com
Any elected forum at the helm of large institutions often tends to eventually serve the egos of those who council from it. Assuming this natural human tendency of serving one's own ego could be avoided; and each vote cast by individual board members was able to avoid posturing, hidden agendas, stagnant thinking, or any stubbornness brought on by those really just trying to protect their current position, here are many of the approaches and resources I would encourage anyone entering any such opportunity or position to consider.
"As with most organizations, it cannot be assumed that school board members are unified actors, and studies of school board decision-making show that individual role interests and social roles often serve as analytical constructs to explain decision-making processes. Local boards typically consist of members who possess divergent individual agendas and a limited set of mutually shared values or beliefs. Nevertheless, existing school board policies, extant procedures, and regularized customs and practices create and then enforce a unifying culture within the school board that is designed to maintain the status quo and has a relatively conservative perspective." - education.com
Align with the most empowered greatest thinkers in American education.

Adopt their guiding principals:
Study the values presented within well researched organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (They summarize many key principals within the "College Ready education plan".)
Go to page 6 of their education plan to read key bullets on:
Focus on success at a higher level
Empower excellent teachers
Innovate to support and engage students

Follow the wisdom and consider membership in renowned organizations:
Students First .ORG http://www.studentsfirst.org/
Kahn Academy .ORG http://www.khanacademy.org/

Learn as much as possible about the technologies at our disposal today - and how cheaply and easily they can be implemented:
http://themichaelhulmeproject.blogspot.com/2008/11/where-or-when-will-your-kids-go-to.html
"The work of board members is seldom self-selected and is more likely to be defined for them by the superintendent, other professional educators, community leaders, interest groups, or state and federal actors. Despite the importance of policy making, board members report that day-to-day responsibilities consume most of their time and complain that they seldom have time for reflection, brainstorming, and long-term planning. Despite concerns for educational equity and quality, boards more often address matters of financial accountability, which tends to enforce a role as steward of the public purse and a perspective of fiscal conservatism." - education.com
When people tell you "no" find out "why". Teach them "yes" and explain "how".

Always keep in mind that the brain and body requires healthy food, nutrition and exercise. Therefor our system of socialized education will fail without it:
http://themichaelhulmeproject.blogspot.com/2010/02/our-childrens-health-is-to-important.html
http://www.jamieoliver.com/foundation/jamies-food-revolution/
http://www.jamieoliver.com/us/foundation/jamies-food-revolution/school-food

Any decent education in this world must depend on the latest tools. And the greatest tool available to us in this day and age is information. However our current education system was formulated during an industrial revolution not an information revolution. Therefor the concentration on memorization and fact finding versus comprehension, execution and implementation has got to change.
"Models of decision-making emphasize inventing, developing, and analyzing possible solutions before selecting a particular course of action. Selecting a possible course of action is informed by the judgment of the decision maker, the analyses of the alternatives on a logical or systematic basis, and the political bargaining process. A major criticism of decision-making in the context of local school boards is that adequate alternative solutions are not always considered in the decision-making process prior to drafting policies." - education.com
On a very personal and potentially touchy political note: I tend to think most people actively involved in careers supported by or in support of the American education system, should reconsider any positions which are outspoken about claims towards anti-socialism; since it would indeed be chatter of utter hypocrisy. Our entire education system is in fact a socialized response to not only educating our children, but in many cases raising them. In other words; a person's mere involvement or dependency for income through such institutions, is directly demonstrating support for one of our countries most crucial and blatant dependencies on "socialism". (At least as it is defined and criticized within the realm of manipulative political rhetoric.)

An early lessons all of our children should understand is their actions speak even louder than their words. Let's not pretend to be polarized by politicized rhetoric while openly depending on social systems and political machines to administer and guide the most important parental and educational areas of American living.
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