Fort Lee has minimal standards to run as a candidate for the local Board of Education, i.e. basically consists of getting your name on the ballot. With a BOE election on the horizon, maybe we should have some guidelines for future candidates and raise our expectations.
The Governor’s Transition Team of Detroit, Michigan, proposed some excellent standards for consideration. As the report is somewhat lengthy, this is an abridged version. A few specifics have been bolded for emphasis.
Optimal Qualifications for School Board Members
(1) Willingness to elevate the ethical code of the district well above usual political and public office standards.
(2) Understanding the Board’s role in the awarding of district contracts and taking the time to insure that contracts meet the best interests of the district and are financially sound.
(3) No record of misconduct that would discredit the Board.
(4) Understanding that Board work should be done by crafting written policies and not by hands-on intervention.
(5) Has the time and is ready to put aside personal career opportunities and family time to attend to school district needs.
(6) Demonstrates a willingness to be trained in best practices for school board members.
(7) Understands the selection process for a school district superintendent and for reviewing his/her performance.
(8) If he/she has children, has been committed to educating them within the public schools.
(9) Knows what a board member must do to engage the community in support of the schools and parents in the successful education of their children.
(10) Must have performed volunteer services for a local organization prior to running for a BOE position.
Has a clear understanding of:
(a) the proper role of the Board in evolving a vision and strategic plan for the district.
(b) how to improve the school learning climate, student attendance, and discipline in order to elevate student achievement.
(c) the limits of paper-and-pencil testing as a sure measure of student achievement.
Has a clear understanding of the proper roles for the Board and Superintendent for:
(a) assuring the safety of the students and staff.
(b) selecting teachers; principals; and division directors.
(c) how to respond to a parent’s complaint of improper treatment or unfair student treatment.
(d) the collective bargaining process.
(e) textbook selection and curricula development.
(f) right-sizing and capital improvement of schools.
Let us understand that to reach the degree of excellence expressed in the above qualifications would border on the impossible. But to strive toward these goals for future BOE members would be an excellent beginning.
There are current Board members that have failed to live up to these standards on the most basic level, while others have endeavored to perform to the best of their abilities. If the Fort Lee BOE is to improve community relations, we need to carefully select candidates, by reviewing their credentials and in the case of incumbents, evaluating past performance. Voters, please take the time to elect the best candidates that will work for our children and the Community. This election is the key to our children’s future.