Aspen school board candidates talk coherent governance
October 19, 2015
Editor's note: Aspen Journalism and The Aspen Times have asked the five candidates for the Aspen School District Board of Education to answer five questions leading up to the election. Today's question is the fifth and final question of the series. The five candidates are vying for two four-year seats. The newly elected board will then appoint a third two-year seat after the election.
Q: The principles of "coherent governance" guide the Board of Education in its decision-making and relationship to the district administration. Do you believe coherent governance is a good model? Why or why not?
Coherent governance is a good model. The Board of Education is made up of volunteer community members who are often parents, community activists, businesspeople or lawyers but almost never anyone with any school district administrative experience. The coherent-governance model permits the board to monitor, review and modify any aspect of the district while leaving the day-to-day management decisions to the professional administrator the board employs.
It appears that coherent governance has led the school board to abrogate its responsibilities to the superintendent, and limited its ability to act, with disastrous results. Under coherent governance, we have had four principals over five years, significant discord between teachers and administration, the high school ranking has fallen from No. 1 in the state to seventh, math and science is struggling, college placements are increasingly challenging and we have difficulties funding the school district operations. Currently adopted coherent-governance policies limit the ability of the Board of Education to directly intervene in school matters that are delegated to the superintendent. I believe the board should retain more authority to direct the superintendent when warranted.
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Coherent governance is the gold standard for school board governance. It is the mission of the board to set goals for and monitor student achievement. Coherent governance removes the board from the day-to-day operations of the district, over which it typically has no direct experience, and allows the board to oversee from the policy level, which directly impacts outcomes across the district. The board creates policy around results (district mission, academic achievement, life skills and citizenship) and sets operational expectations for the district. The implementation of these policies is left to the superintendent. The board then annually monitors all these result and operational expectations closely for reasonable progress.
Coherent governance is a good model. My understanding is it builds and establishes strategic leadership that engages the community, embracing a common set of core beliefs. These beliefs are the mission and vision of the district. The board is entrusted to support the best interest of the district and students. The board leads through policy-developing collaboration and focusing on results and outcomes. Expectations, evaluations and goals are defined and clear.
"A growing body of literature and research suggests that boards can add value to raising student achievement." Maricle, C., "Governing to Achieve," 2014.
Yes, but the problem is a lack of transparency with off-the-record meetings where deliberations are held in secret (i.e., the recent board and superintendent decision to appoint rather than elect the third trustee). If elected, I promise to honor the will of the voters and appoint the third-place finisher at the polls. All other candidates to date have refused to sign this pledge.
Finally, citizens know I'll stand tall and call a spade a spade. We need new leadership.
We need change. I would be humbled and honored to have your vote.