Danville school board needs to be more transparent, honest

Published 3:23 pm Thursday, March 1, 2018

Dear Editor,

What should we expect from our elected school board members? That question seems to be a topic of discussion among most stakeholders with the Danville schools in light of the recent events. When five people can affect the future of 2,200-plus students and employees with their decisions, I think it is a fair question.

School board members should be held to the standard of any elected official: accountability, transparency and honesty. When one or more of these standards are not met, trust is broken.

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According to the National School Board Association, these are the characteristics of a highly effective school board (not of the superintendent, but of the board):

  • Boards engage in goal setting and monitoring their progress.
  • They are increasingly data savvy — identifying student needs and justifying decisions based on data.
  • Board members possess detailed knowledge of their district, including initiatives to jump-start success.
  • Board members have crafted a working relationship with superintendents, teachers, and administrators based on mutual respect, collegiality and a joint commitment to student success.

The current Danville school board needs improvement in all these areas, particularly the last item. I have not seen evidence the board has any goals for the district other than “raising test scores.” I have not seen a plan for how that goal should be accomplished. I have not seen any evidence they have researched initiatives they would like the district to implement. And, sadly, I have never seen board members in our schools during a school day so they could gain knowledge of what is even happening on a day-to-day basis. (Mr. Becker has attended many after school functions and has always been open to speaking with parents and staff.) The superintendent is held to an evaluation each year; these above-listed items need to set a standard for evaluation for the rest of the board members.

While I strongly disagree with their decision to not renew Dr. Look’s contract, that fact cannot be undone. However, we as stakeholders can hold the board to a higher standard from now on. Our only recourse for accountability is voting each election. However, many bad decisions, even damage, can be done between elections.

I am hoping honesty, transparency and accountability can be restored, but it will take each of us to make sure they maintain these standards.

Anne Winburn