Governance Reform

We all share a vision for good government for our schools: we want a Board of Education that is transparent, accountable to the public for its decisions and for results, and guided by the best thinking and data to ensure that every child is supported in reaching his or her potential. I strongly believe that we can have a School Board that fully reflects this vision. As a member of the Board, I will work with my colleagues to help provide the leadership needed to get there.

Transparency. A core principle of our government is that the public's business is done in public, so that we can be fully informed participants in the governance of our community and our schools. Unfortunately Board operations have not always been fully transparent. As the Palo Alto Weekly reported earlier this year, the Board and the Superintendent had established a regular practice of confidential communications on a range of subjects through memoranda that were not generally available to the public.citizen_20.jpg

21st-century governance. One simple cure for lack of transparency is full visibility. The Internet has enabled information to be made easily and globally available. As a school district in the heart of Silicon Valley, we can be a leader in the Government 2.0 and Citizen 2.0 movements by providing public access to all of the people, documents, and communications that are relevant to policy making. Moreover, we can help to provide many more opportunities for unmediated contact between parents and other community members and the Board, in addition to more traditional avenues of communication through existing organizations. I will work vigorously towards these goals.

In addition, I pledge that I will make all of my own communications with district staff available to the public via the Web, except for the small number that that are truly confidential because they deal with legal or personnel matters. I will also work with my colleagues on the Board to ensure that the Board's operations reflect both the letter and the spirit of the Brown Act, by ensuring that our work is as open to public view as possible.

Accountability. Another core principle of our government is that our elected bodies should take responsibility for making clear policy decisions and for ensuring that they are implemented by staff, so that we have effective democratic governance of our schools. Like transparency, this is another area where reforms are needed, to fix what outgoing Board member Barbara Klausner called in a powerful and persuasive statement at the June 12, 2012 Board meeting "a governance process that appears to be broken." Klausner pointed specifically to the need for clear direction from the Board followed by staff action that implements Board directives.

I will work to address the issues that Board Member Barbara Klausner identified by:

  • Working with other Board members to move towards clearer decisions through votes, rather than a reliance on a more vague "sense of the Board" that leaves senior staff with the job of discerning and distilling the Board's direction from a welter of often unclear comments and conversation;
  • Clarifying the relation between the Board and senior staff, to make it clear that the role of the Board is to provide clear guidance to the district and to receive regular updates on implementation; and
  • Building consensus for a more explicit decision process in which Board discussions are tied to decisions that make clear the Board's position on issues and that the public can use to gauge the effectiveness of its elected officials.
Making rapid and substantial progress on this issue is critical to public confidence in the work of the Board, and I will make it a top priority of mine if elected.

Data-driven decision making. In her statement on the Board's governance challenges, Barbara Klausner commented that for high school counseling "I believe what the board wants, and what many, many members of the community want is simply a calm, reasoned, professional analysis of the data and best practices." That is a general goal we should have for decision-making in the district.

I have found on many issues that I have discussed with the Board -- for example, counseling, homework, achievement -- that bringing data to bear can clarify the best course forward and can drain the emotion from a discussion. I will draw on my own substantial experience in working with educational data tto support staff in bringing high-quality data to the Board. I will also work to ensure that Board decisions are based on a clear understanding of relevant research and best practices, drawing on expertise from members of the community wherever possible.

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