Controversy good for Olympia Schools

April 7th, 2008 by Ken

There’s a missive going around that the controversy surrounding the Olympia School District is bad for the district and bad for the students.  I think just the opposite.  I think the controversy is good for the district and good for the taxpayers of the Olympia School District.

From what I understand, the conflict between school board members Russ Lehman and Bob Shirley – – and Carolyn Barclift and Frank Wilson, has to do with who runs the school district.   Lehman and Shirley seem to think the school board runs the schools, while Barclift and Wilson think that the school superintendent and his employees run the school district.

That just about boils the conflict down to its most vital core.

Anyone who has been elected to a school board knows one thing and knows it very quickly.  The superintendent runs the school district while the school board sets policy.  They know it because the superintendent tells them so as does the associations to which the superintendent belongs.  The associations even hold training sessions for new school board members so they know their place.

But somehow, Lehman and Shirley didn’t get the word.  They actually think that school board members have some say over how the district operates.  Barclift and Wilson belong to the old “school”.  They hire a superintendent and allow him (or her) to run the district.  School board members keep their collective noses out of day-to-day operations.

I happen to think that this controversy is good for the Olympia schools.  Too often school districts speak with one voice and the concerns of parents or other interest groups are folded in or set aside.  I’m a firm believer that when everyone thinks alike, then everyone’s wrong.

Collective thinking on the part of the school board often leaves parents and taxpayers out.  The bureauracy of a school district is difficult to wend through and those questioning leadership or programs often give up in disgust.

Disagreements should not always take place behind closed doors.  Debate and discussion – yes and even disagreement – should sometimes take place in public so parents and taxpayers can know that their concerns are being addressed.

I see nothing wrong with public disagreement and I see nothing wrong with the Olympia School Board fighting for the conscience of the district.

And, I see nothing wrong with letting Educational Service District 113 select the fifth member of the board. 

Posted in Government, Informational

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