5/12/2022 0 Comments
This week, the Park City School Board concluded its appointment process for a new Board Member, after “interviewing” three candidates for the District 4 Board vacancy. I’m not going to comment on the merits of any of the individuals who applied, rather I would like to offer some brief reflections on what I think we learned (or confirmed) about the Board from that most perfunctory of interview processes:
1. The Board seems highly focused on their fiduciary responsibility, which is hard to reconcile with the ever-growing debt finance apparently required to keep the District operational (while still being unable to properly compensate enough educators).
2. The Board routinely offers platitudes regarding the importance of public comment, but faced with an open seat on a board beset with a stream of ethical controversies they refused to even confirm the names of the applicants until the meeting notes from the interviews were published.
3. The Board seemed entirely unprepared to offer thoughts on what they were looking for in filling that vacancy when asked in the interviews, but that offered the unscripted opportunity for one Board Member to opine it is important they have someone with an opinion, and that they routinely disagree with each other. This stands in stark contrast to their unanimous voting record. Ironic, too, that they then (unanimously) appointed the one candidate who specifically stated in her interview she would not disagree with them.
4. Transparency was much discussed in the interviews, and taken in isolation one might reasonably conclude this is an important issue for the Board. Unfortunately those interviews do not exist in isolation and the Board has had years to show that it is indeed important to them. They have invariably done exactly the opposite.
5. The final line of interview questioning regarding the respective roles of the Superintendent and the Board, and how the Board should best support the Superintendent, betrayed the echo chamber the Board has carefully created for themselves. The Superintendent has consistently been directly implicated in the Board’s controversies, even including failure to report child sexual abuse within the District. She also continues to preside over unprecedented loss of experienced educators from the District, and underperforming schools. The question is not how the Board should best support the Superintendent, but whether the Board should continue to support the Superintendent. The Board’s obligation is to the District’s students, staff, and other stakeholders in totality. Individual support must be conditioned on the actions, or inactions, of the individual.
Regardless the relative merits of the applicants – and if we can take the Board’s comments at Monday’s meeting seriously, they believed all the candidates were plenty qualified – I would have hoped all involved could acknowledge the murky ethical and political waters the Board would wade into by appointing someone actively engaged in a campaign for the open seat. Even that was a step too far for this Board, who gleefully dived head-first into those murky waters by appointing someone with the explicit intent of actively supporting them in the election. This appointment offered the Board a wonderful opportunity to show that they take the swarm of controversies surrounding themselves seriously; that they take transparency, accountability, and ethical leadership seriously. Sadly (but predictably), they chose not to take advantage of that opportunity. Instead it turned out to be a perfect microcosm of everything wrong with this Board.
With 80% of our supposedly elected School Board originally in office through appointment, voters will now have the opportunity to have their say. The whole Board, including the newest member, has made clear they want more of the same: the same ethical controversies, the same cronyism, the same corruption, the same underperforming schools, the same criminal charges, the same abdication of duty of care to our children, the same disinterest in our educators. I don’t want more of the same.