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Linda and the

School Board

John W. Pinkerton


My wife, Linda, is a member of the local school board.  She is one of seven members.

She's moving toward serving for twenty-one years and has been selected as the secretary of the board for all these years.  She's there because for thirty years she was a teacher in the high school, and before that she was a student in the same school, 1-12.  The school and the community, obviously, are important to her.

When Linda ran for her seventh three-year term, she feared that she might be beaten.  In all other elections, she simply ran two advertisements for election in the county's newspaper and, of course, participated in any sponsored meet-the-candidates affairs.  Being a little fearful of losing, she decided to expand her advertising campaign: yard signs and one large sign which a friend had agreed that she could place on her fence facing the post office, an ideal location.

The “large” sign was problematic.  Because of my illness, I was unable to assist her when she made arrangements to purchase the big sign: the big sign was beyond big; it was huge; it was embarrassingly huge; but there was no turning back.

We have a huge campaign sign stored for possible future use...somewhere.

Needless to say, she was elected; in fact, she received the most votes.

Being a teacher, I've also been interested in our school board.

After teaching for a few years, I decided to begin attending our school board meetings.  At the time teachers attending school board meetings was not the norm.  I didn't want to disturb the superintendent or board members by my unannounced appearance at the meeting, so I went by and visited with the superintendent to tell him of my intentions.  He indicated that he recognized my right to be there and seemed to approve of my intention…surprised but accepting.

For a few years, the board met in a room not large enough to cuss a cat in.  My knees almost touched the butt of the board member seated in front of me.  No one could whisper a word in an open session without being clearly heard.  Although I'm sure my presence made the members a little uncomfortable, they seemed to take it well.

But clearly they were unfamiliar with having visitors.

A board meeting has an open session and a closed session.  Guests are privy to the open session; however, the closed session, if needed, is not open to the public…only selected people such as candidates for positions with the school.  However, I noted that the secretary of the board read the minutes in the open session of the minutes of the previous closed session.  Very handy information...for me, but not standard procedure.  It didn't seem prudent to point out this error.

Shortly after this discovery by the Board, they decided they needed a change of superintendent...probably an unrelated facts.

By the way, at the time the state had not yet approved the “fair-dismissal” law which simply meant that before firing an employee the administration must provide documentation and have legal reasons to dismiss an employee.  In other words, if the superintendent or board decided to fire someone because the individual did not part his or her hair in an acceptable way, they could be fired.

I've never forgotten that when the superintendent was explaining to the board the nature of the new “fair-dismissal” law, one board member commented with a little pique, “I think we should be able to fire anyone whenever we want to.”  Holy crap, Mr. Education.

The superintendent was replaced by a low-rent version of “Slick Willie,”  who managed to run off a lot of good people…exactly what the board wanted.  I recall one board member commenting, “Why is it that the teachers seem to have all the good ideas?”  This reminds me of the Saturday Night Live skit in which a dumb cave man killed a smart cave man and then commented, “Now I'm smart.”

Great harm was caused by the board and the new superintendent.  For me, I waged all-out war against both.  Finally and reluctantly, the Board set the superintendent free to harm a different school---from which he was fired in a few months.

My thirty-five years as an employee of the district saw several superintendents.  The board did manage to hire a couple of folks who were capable of leading the school district in a positive way. 

This brings us to one of the principal responsibilities of school boards: hiring superintendents.  I've watched boards hire superintendents casually and without much thought.  The present superintendent was hired after an arduous process involving assistance from the Texas Association of School Boards. 

In addition to hiring and evaluating superintendents, they must adopt a budget and set a tax rate, adopt and evaluate policies for effectiveness, adopt goals and priorities and monitor success, and communicate with the community.

Board members receive no salaries, but do receive reimbursement for expenses while conducting board business.

If there is a perceived problem with a fellow board member, the board may censure, ask a member to resign or refer misconduct to the district attorney or give the board member an official warning regarding future misconduct.

School boards govern the district with the advice of the superintendents.  Superintendents manage the districts with the oversight of the boards and within the bounds of policies approved by the  boards.

The state has a large role in governing local districts, but local districts have a great amount of latitude in developing their governing policies.

Anyone running for a school board should become familiar with how the system works before running.  I recall one elected member who expressed shock to learn that the local board met during the summer months.  Holy crap!

You will be elected to make your school district the best it can possibly be…not serve your personal interest.

We, Linda and I, have decided that she is in charge of the school and the local community and I'm in charge of the remainder of the world.

That works for me.