Comebacktown published by David Sher & Phyllis Neill to begin a discussion on creating better government for our region.
Today’s guest blogger is Michael Calvert.
The fundamental problem with the Birmingham Board of Education is the election of board members from the nine City Council districts. This structure explains much of the poor performance of board members.
The president of the board has publicly said he pursued election to the board of education because he “wanted to get into politics.” Political ambition appears to be the primary motivation of board members.
Instead of pursuing their personal political advancement, board members should serve the needs of our children. Their proper role is to develop policies in conjunction with the superintendent; they should oversee, but not micromanage, the administration of the school system.
The present board members lobby headquarters and interfere with the superintendent’s administrative and personnel decisions. Board members advocate for their districts in school closings and school construction rather than strengthening the overall school system. All of this is a direct result of our structure that elects board members from City Council districts.
Before board members were elected from districts, the Mayor nominated and the City Council approved “at large” board members who had a strong interest in education and represented the city as a whole. Appointing citizens primarily focused on our children could result in a board that would set general policies, stop interfering in administration, and cooperate with the superintendent to improve the quality of education in the City of Birmingham.
The Board of Education needs basic structural change.
Michael Calvert is an urban planner and retired president of Operation New Birmingham. He’s currently leading efforts to save historic Powell School.
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