An Open and Inclusive School Board
|Create school board meetings that welcome public participation with focused discussions and reasonable end times.|
|Redirect spending on lobbying, legal expenses and PR back into the classroom.|
|Recommit to transparent government by minimizing closed door meetings of the school board.|
|Make decisions based on data and best practices, with full transparency and open discussion.|
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. That means that closed meetings, at which the public is not present, are kept to the minimum legally required. It also means that the public has the same access to documents and communications that school board members do, except for matters that are genuinely confidential. Our school board has increasingly resorted to closed meetings and private communications for issues that would better be aired in public. I pledge to work to reverse this trend. I pledge myself to make available to the public, via the Web, all of my communications with district staff and other board members that are not legally confidential.
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.
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.
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.