Tuesday, June 10, 2014


A few minutes of listening to Ted Comstock, President of the New Hampshire School Board Association, convinced me that MUCH has changed in the operation of local school boards nationwide since I was a school board member in the 1970s.  

Click on You Tube link below:

Comstock has accepted the myth that local board members require in-service training in order to do a "good" job. He said words to the effect, "We [state school board association] provide training academy for next year [dangerous!, ed.].... We would like to do everything we can for school boards to discharge their duties and to know what their job is... community engagement [don't you hate that word?]... serve as legislative arm... State School Board Association involved in superintendent searches... . Making sure our wonderful system of local government in New Hampshire is promoted and protected."  

As a local school board member 1976-1979  I ran into trouble when I refused to attend school board member "training" being held in our state capitol. Everyone else went, but not Charlotte. Why did we need to be trained?  I'll tell you why.

At Candidate Night, which was held prior to school board elections to question persons running for school board, a member of the audience asked me: "Who will you represent if you are elected, the administration or the taxpayers?" I was really taken aback! What a weird question! I responded, "I will represent the people who elected me." Needless to say, in the very liberal community in which I lived, I was not elected first time around. I was elected next time around. 

Then, and this IS amusing (it also relates to bolded text below), while attending a staff meeting as Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Dept. of Education, the rogue conservative Assistant Secretary for OERI discussed with its principal officers a proposal that we were supposed to fund--a project to train local school boards in Effective School Research (all the Skinnerian performance-based restructuring we are looking at today!). I almost fell off my chair, and then piped up, "I cannot believe what you are proposing. Spending tax money to brainwash innocent local school board members?"

He tried to shut me down and succeeded, but I had made my point. As a former local school board member I was amazed that such a proposal could come out of a so-called conservative mouth! (What is interesting here is that immediately after that little staff meeting incident, three career officers--one the Director of the National Center for Educational Statistics and one the Director of the Office of  Libraries and Learning Technology--came up to me and said, "You are absolutely correct. This type of proposal would NEVER have surfaced pre-Reagan Dept. of Education. We never would have dreamed of funding such a blatant attempt to control the local level." (Well, that is not entirely true either, considering what I saw while working there, but I was surprised at their reaction that particular morning.) 

Dr. Jacob Bean, author of River of Pollution, and  Chairman of a local school board in a California public school, during the seventies, said words to the effect, "The most important elected position in the United States is that of elected school board member.... More important than President of the United States." He went on to explain why: "They have much to do with the formation of good  character... students' attitudes, values, and beliefs, understanding of history and our republican form of government, and the continuation of such a system of government."

I agree with him.

The gals interviewing Mr. Comstock on the YouTube video do a very good job, especially when they ask him how New Hampshire school boards can regain local control. I recommend that those gals take a look at the  following You Tube video conversation between two Louisiana activists regarding what they and their faceless followers have done in Louisiana to turn education completely around and give back control to the parents. Listen to the following You Tube link for a radio interview with the founders of The People LLC, Angels Alef and Karen  Champagne:

Read the blogpost:
Watch the interview:

A few asides to help the reader of this post understand what has happened to local school board control over the past 37 years come from my book the deliberate dumbing down of america, pages 145-146:

JOANNE MCAULEY’S NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE, A NATIONAL Organization of concerned parents and educators, was founded in the mid-1970s and, considering the potential it had for holding the line on innovations taking place in American education, its early demise represented a real setback for parents, children, and teachers. Ms. McAuley’s May/June 1977 issue of her newsletter, The School Bell, is proof that the National School Boards Association was, at one time, a strong proponent of local control, not a “sell out the locals” organization that in the 1990s would support site- and school-based management (taxation without representation) and charter schools. Excerpts follow:

On March 27, George W. Smith, immediate past president of the National School Boards Association, warned school board members attending the NSBA convention in Houston that “The Congress and the federal bureaucracy could become the country’s master school board unless school board members stand up and be counted.” He urged delegates to continue to forge a strong NSBA to convince Congress that local school board members are truly representative, most unselfish, and the best qualified persons to represent the local viewpoint in education.

Smith said local constituencies cannot be forgotten even while the new trust is being built with Congress. “We must not forget our own constituency,” he noted. He also advised board members to be aware of—and leery of—proposals for public involvement in public school operations that would shift decision-making authority to “vaguely defined groups of citizens at the school site level.” The minister from San Diego cautioned that the power to make a decision must never be divorced from the responsibility for making that decision....

He said school boards must be strong for another reason—to counter the movements of the courts and federal regulatory agencies into the operation of schools. “If we want other governmental units to stop eroding our ability to provide educational governance, we must exercise that ability more often and more effectively.” Smith said, “Where we can, we should work together with all segments of the public toward the improvement of the schools. But,” he concluded, “our responsibility is to all the people and we must view only the ‘big picture.’”

[Ed. Note: Smith’s ability to foresee the implementation of site-based management, the downgrading of the importance of elected board members, and the transfer of power to public-private partnerships, etc., is to be lauded! While serving in the U.S. Department of Education this writer attempted to stop federally funded programs to train local school board members in conflict resolution and in how to implement effective school research.]