You’ve seen the headline, Retaining accreditation will be difficult for Birmingham city” schools.
“Birmingham City Schools will have a hard time remaining accredited if board members don’t…start thinking of the system as a whole, said the president of the accrediting agency that recently announced it was placing the district on probation…
… A review team from AdvancEd who was in Birmingham for several days in May found
…that individual board members were not looking out for the best interests of the system as a whole…
“The ramifications are dire,” said state Superintendent Tommy Bice. “It’s regretful that one area of governance can cause that kind of impact on students.”
Please note the common theme is that board members don’t look out for the school system as a whole.
But why would we expect them to? Each board member is elected by district. If one of them makes a decision that is best for the school system, but harms their district, he/she won’t be re-elected.
People say the current school board is a disaster…”Elect a better board and our problems will be over.”
I’m not competent to judge past school boards, but we’ve had five superintendents in the past thirteen years. We would have had six, but the State Board of Education intervened last year.
As usual, our government structure is at fault. Most school systems don’t elect school boards by district.
Of course, we have the same dysfunctional structure for our City of Birmingham. Council members are elected from nine districts—the same districts as the school board.
When City Council candidates run for office, they concentrate on neighborhood issues—abandoned houses, overgrown lots, empty store fronts, police presence, etc.
Councillors are elected by neighborhoods and must answer to that neighborhood. There’s no incentive to look out for the city as a whole.
And the same can be said about Jefferson County. Five County Commissioners are elected by district. There’s not a single major county official elected county wide (except the sheriff). You could see the split on the vote to close Cooper Green Hospital. Three Commissioners representing three white districts voted to close Cooper Green and two African-American Commissioners representing African-American districts voted to keep it open.
School Board members, City Council members, and County Commissioners may have good intentions, but when their district’s needs are involved, they are compelled to satisfy their constituents.
Do we blame the elected official or do we blame our system?
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David Sher is the publisher of ComebackTown, a co-founder of Buzz12 Advertising and co-CEO of AmSher Collection Agency. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham)), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).