Although the school district has not had a scandal or been under investigation for serious wrongdoing of any kind under policy governance, this model for district operations lends itself to chicanery more than those systems of governance which build in intensive checks and balances.
We must also recognize that policy governance allows the superintendent to implement her personal philosophy of education and to decide how money should be expended for its advancement because board members have no vote on operational matters. In effect, this takes the vote away from their constituents, parents, teachers and other citizens on matters most meaningful to the education of their children.
Although any form of school district governance can produce misuse of money, those boards of education which do not have their members involved significantly in the management of district operations, like ours, cannot practically check and balance activities of the superintendent and those who assist her. Scandals in Columbus (Ohio), Racine (Wis.), Cobb County (Ga.) and Beaufort County, for example, testify to this.
A fundamental design flaw of policy governance is the monitoring process. In effect, it has the administration checking on itself and preparing reports of administrative activities for the board. Using statistical analysis, the administration conveys facts and figures, with its own interpretation and spin. Unless the board itself is involved through committee work and regular, individual investigation in operational areas, it simply cannot have sufficient information from which to draw its own conclusions. Occasional inquiries by board members of certain prepared items and administrative responses cannot possibly produce the depth of knowledge needed by members to oversee administrative activities properly.
Philosophy is also important. If the public believes that writing in cursive, mastery of multiplication tables, regular instruction in grammar, an emphasis on individual expressive writing and learning how to use one’s mind well should take precedence over the superintendent’s promotion of early keyboarding, use of calculators, group dynamics and the use of every available technology, it is of no consequence, for whatever the superintendent wants, the superintendent gets.
Of course, great results can be achieved, but at what cost, monetarily and in human terms, and how can our governance receive credit, especially since there has been no established correlation? Could the efforts of many have produced them, in spite of governance?
If we allow the monetary concerns of this world and corporate enterprise to drive what we do in public education, we will be selling our souls for 30 pieces of silver. If public education cannot remain unfettered and free, then the mind cannot remain so, and we as a nation will soon be marching lockstep to the group thinking and standardization that have produced a totalitarian society such as China’s. On the surface, it might seem appealing, but the human costs are too great. The loss of individuality leads to the loss of freedom.
The potential for disaster under policy governance is too great of a risk to continue to take. The board must, in the near future, implement responsible oversight of monetary and instructional decision-making through a form of governance which empowers the people of our district to once again be in charge of public education in Horry County Schools.
The writer, a teacher in Horry County Schools, lives in Surfside Beach.