Knox student speaks out on St. Louis public education

Knox student Maurice Harris offers advice to the transitional school board governing St. Louis’s public schools.

Excerpt:

The face of public education in Saint Louis is changing. Although court challenges continue, the City’s school board has become superseded by a new transitional board appointed by Gov. Matt Blunt, Mayor Francis G. Slay and Lewis Reed, president of the Board of Aldermen.

It’s a change that makes sense: During the past four years, the City’s school board has devolved into a group where members attack each other and those who criticize them for failing to do the job they were elected to do. This bickering has taken focus off of the school district’s worsening financial situation and declining student achievement. The new transitional school board should keep a few things in mind if it wants to avoid the same problems created by the elected board.

First: Do the job you were created to do. The transitional school board’s primary focus is to stabilize the district’s governance and finances. The elected board had tried to micromanage the day-to-day operations of the school district – a job that should be left to the superintendent, who is responsible for implementing district policies and regulations, and developing educational plans of the district. This role is filled better by one person than by a panel filled with people who have conflicting goals, and who can’t be present every day to make sure the district is running smoothly.

When elected officials misunderstand the school board’s proper place in public education, a power struggle can form between the board and the district administrators, with both groups trying to maintain a greater amount of control over the district. If the transitional school board wants to succeed where past boards have failed, it should leave education to the superintendent and the administration, focusing instead on the finances.

Read the full column in the St. Louis American.