I applaud WFPL for its coverage of education in Louisville, and I’m grateful that on Friday the station attempted to explain to voters what they elect school board members to do. (“When You Vote For a School Board, What Are You Voting For?“)
That said, I have rarely read a better example of getting the details right but missing the point.
Of course board members do the things WFPL describes: follow rules and procedures, hire the superintendent, approve contracts, educate themselves about the issues, and listen to constituents and share their concerns.
Left out, though, is the fundamental duty of board members under Kentucky’s Constitution to serve as “trustees” for the voters in “provid[ing] for an efficient system of common schools.” Like board members for private non-profit or for-profit corporations, but unlike legislators or Metro Council members, school board members are fiduciaries, bound to use their best judgment to see that the District delivers on its duty to provide education efficiently and effectively.
This means that board members’ duty extends beyond “checking the box” of complying with regulations, beyond learning about policy, beyond the satisfaction, fun and frustration of talking with parents and teachers, and beyond the passive task of listening to management reports.
Where an organization is not delivering on its duty to the voters — as JCPS, despite encouraging progress, still is not — board members must focus on the barriers to delivery, and require that management lead whatever change is necessary.
With less than half of JCPS students qualifying as “proficient” in the most recent state evaluation, sharpening the District’s focus is clearly the board’s next task.