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Council to consider making School Committee an elected board again

The City Council today approved a request by at-large Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George for a hearing to look at whether voters should once again be giving a direct say on who serves on the School Committee.

It's Essaigi-George's first new hearing request in her new role as chairwoman of the council's education committee. Essaibi-George, who taught at East Boston High School and who has three children in BPS, took over the post from now former Councilor Tito Jackson, who made a return to an elected committee one of his issues in his race for mayor last year.

Boston voters voted in 1989 to make the seven-member committee one appointed by the mayor and then re-ratified their vote in another referendum in 1996.

Essaibi-George did not say how she stood on the issue, but said she wants to give parents the chance to speak on "how families will best engage with the people who set policy, who impact their children's education."

At-large Councilor Ayanna Pressley supported the hearing motion, but said she hopes that among the issues to be considered would be giving the committee's one student representative a vote in deliberations.

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Comments

If I recall, the reason the School Committee was made appointive rather than elective was that it had become the farm system for the City Council. Committee members were much more interested in building their networks of allies than in the schools themselves.

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Essaibi-George is a joke

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Why is it a bad idea?

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I 'm not an ardent supporter of the appointed school committee we now have because I'm not clear how its members are selected.

I am clear that neither appointed or elected school committees provide balance in representing all interested parties in considering the school system. In particular, the committee skews strongly to the interests of parents of students in BPS and to teachers and administrators in the school system and fails to represent the interests of all taxpayers, not just parents, in Boston.

The appointed committee offered, at least in theory, the ability to tie the mayor directly to the school system's success or failure in educating the students in its charge and doing so within a reasonable budget.

The elected committee for decades offered a home to the worst kind of politicians - Louise Day Hicks, John Kerrigan, Thomas Eisenstadt always come to mind as people ready to use the school committee as a vehicle for their political aspirations and a means of getting jobs for supporters at public expense (both in dollars wasted in salaries and in lack of competence in performing jobs).

I cannot think of a single useful accomplishment the elected committee could lay claim to, unless one wishes to count their decisions in segregating Boston schools in a manner so blatant that Judge Garrity rightly found BPS deliberately acted to keep minority students out of most schools as an accomplishment instead of an affront.

One could count on the elected committee to operate the school system with neither transparency nor accountability, to let committee members' personal interests matter more than the interests of students, parents, or taxpayers, and to insulate the mayor and city council from real responsibility for what the school system was doing.

I generally don't like to make a single issue a litmus test for elected officials but I make an exception when I hear anyone say they want an elected school system. The energy wasted floating this terrible idea, either out of ignorance about the past performance of the elected Boston School Committee or a desire to make a change that sounds more democratic than an appointed, would be much better focused on figuring out how to improve the appointed committee and how to make sure the mayor and city councilors cannot escape responsibility for the budget and performance of BPS.

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Don’t work? Given that most other municipalities have better schools than BPS, I disagree. We wouldn’t have the constant rebranding/ restructur/ upheaval that plagues the BPS, and instead may get leaders who are actually challenged to serve an oversight role instead of be a rubber stamp.

Would not have had start time debacle, push to first have a million types of schools (middle, k-8, 9-12), to be followed by current push to have fewer models of schools (k-6/7-12), and may actually get a group that rejects a superintendent content with the notion that BPS should engineer less desired outcomes across the board as long as they are “equitably distributed”, rather than having more absolute better outcomes and work on improving the outliers. (See rationale for start time mess).

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campaigns are EXPENSIVE. I am extremely concerned about special interest groups funneling money into school committee campaigns. Then the elected committee will be beholden to their funders, not parents or students.

This is DFER's wet dream.

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The ideal board is a mix of appointed + elected members. The same way an ideal city council is a mix of at-large + district councilors.

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Documents/Notices of Boston City Council shall be online so the information is SEARCHABLE/machine readable for vision impaired folks/for all folks !

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on lastnight's Greater Boston about this, where Peter Kadzis reminds us of the bad old days. Also included are Councilor Essaibi-George, and Jane, a BPS parent.

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Who might be good Candidates for an Elected School Board?...

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Seems like a mostly terrible idea. I can’t see how elected officials—who potentially need not know anything about education to secure votes—would be a good level of oversight over a school district. I’m not sure the current system works, either, but I can’t see direct elections being an improvement.

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Ugh, this is how Texas got creationism into textbooks nationwide. Do not make Massachusetts the next Karl Rove incubator. The town dogcatcher does not need to campaign for office, they just need to do a job. I don't even like electing a sheriff.

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For there to be elected school board. Heck, I'll go out on a limb and say that in 350 of the 351 municipalities of Massachusetts, there are elections for a board of some sort that oversees the schools (though in a lot of those municipalities, they are representatives to regional school districts.) Yet somehow the schools in Danvers are not teaching creationism, though the closest you get is school districts that have heated arguments about that dreaded phrase "Christmas Vacation."

I have to admit this one thing. I wanted to check out this comment thread before it hit page two. 13 comments on schools and 135 comments on resident parking stickers. That's why I sometimes worry about the future of the city, and is why, although I obviously disagree with you, I'm glad you, and the rest of the commenters, care about education over automobile parking, a UHub obsession.

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It's a democracy. In a democracy, voters choose their representatives. In Boston, home of the American Revolution, voters don't choose who sets policies affecting that cornerstone of democracy, public education. They should.

It's true that School Committees of the past were debacles (Pixie Palladino!). It's also true that they were used as stepping stones to other political offices (are there offices which are not?). It's true too that they facilitated patronage in the school department (the 1993 ed reform act nixed that).

The past isn't necessarily prologue. It can just be the past.

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Voters do elect their representatives in our government - that's why we have an elected mayor and an elected city council in our city.

That doesn't mean voters elect everyone in government. In Boston, happily, we don't elect the police commissioner; we don't elect the fire commissioner; we don't elect the head of public works. We are no less a democratic republic because we have chosen to elect some officials not all officials.

I agree that it's important people voice their views on public education. I just don't agree that an elected school committee is a sound vehicle for listening to the various views offered or a good choice for weighing costs and benefits in reaching decisions about public education. It's particularly the case in a city where the elected mayor and the elected city council already play a role in the process of setting education policy for the city.

I think the city council should use its time and energy looking at the process by which members of the appointed school committee become members - does the committee membership properly reflect the interested parties, not just parents of students in the system or proponents of charter schools, but taxpayers who foot the bill for the system and teachers who make the system work (or fail to work)? should the term of service on the school committee change from what it is now?

Public hearings on this might even serve to educate all of us in Boston on exactly what the committee's role vis-a-vis the mayor and the school superintendent is, how policy is being set in the system and who actually is setting it, and how effective the committee and the school department are in filling their roles.

Maybe this kind of discussion might lead to an assessment process that the city council and mayor used regularly and openly and honestly to provide all of us with real insight into how well the parts of public education in the city, including charter schools and pilot schools, are working to meet the goals they should meet.

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I think you’re 100% correct here. I think it’s a valuable illustration to ask if voters should have a say in how the fire department is run.

I personally think that education policy should not. Be left up to voters, but should instead be driven by experienced professionals who are up on latest research. Letting voters decide if classes can be taught in languages other than English is a perfect example; despite piles of evidence for multilingual classrooms the voters chose against it.

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