Imagine that you are a candidate running for the school board in Des Moines. After three years, you are up for re-election, and your record consists of the following: Closures of several schools; a high drop-out rate; a controversial decision to purchase a building for $4.5 million, despite the fact that it was appraised at $2 million; a sale of land to the third-highest bidder, who turned out to be the brother-in-law of another Board Member (not up for re-election); and an alleged closed-door meeting in which the Superintendent was awarded a 4% salary increase, despite the fact that all but one of Des Moines’ high schools and 60% of the city’s middle schools made the federal watch list for academic failure. For more commentary on this disturbing series of events, visit the blog of another local conservative, The Real Sporer.
YIKES! If it wasn’t enough that people are tired of paying more and more for public education only to get stagnant to declining student achievement as a result, incidents like those listed above will make life even more difficult for the incumbents this election year. I suppose that they might find it comforting to know that the Board Chairman (who is up for re-election) believes that the Board has done a good job. And I suppose they could also take comfort in knowing that they have the backing of the local teachers’ union.
In two weeks Des Moines residents have a chance to make a change to their school board. Three great candidates are running for seats on the board, and this past Tuesday, I had the opportunity to hear them speak at a forum sponsored by the Northeast Neighbors.
Steve Flood, a challenger, is by far the most energetic candidate, and made it clear that he wasn’t going to tolerate closed-door meetings. He also said he would do what it takes to restore the faith of the taxpayers. A Senior Vice President at Holmes Murphy, he demonstrated that he understands what it means to have a high drop-out rate ($2 Billion cost to the State) and the effect of school closure on neighborhoods (a 20-30 percent drop in home values). Finally, he implied that he is not going to buy into the myth that small class-sizes are good for their own sake. Rather, he stated that what matters is the quality of teachers and their ability to control students.
Another great candidate was Kristine Crisman, a Connecticut native now living in Beaverdale. This woman was not shy about calling the Board and current system out for its lack of accountability to parents and its lack of parental involvement. She also pointed out how, nearly ten years after implementing the local option sales tax, not all of the school buildings have air-conditioning, but all of the administration buildings do.
Finally, businessman Mike Pike had some great moments. My favorite moment came when, after being asked what his background in education was, he replied “I’m don’t have a background in education. I leave the educating for the educators.” Amen. The idea that one must have a background in education to serve on a school board is ludicrous. The school board should definitely have some diversity in background, but it is very important that the board contain members whose jobs don’t entail feeding from the public trough. The third candidate with whom I enjoyed visiting was Mike Pike.
After the past three years, it is clear that change is needed on the Des Moines School Board. On September 9, we have a chance to reverse the wayward course of the Des Moines Schools, and vote in three new board members. Considering the abysmal record of the current board and the undisputed reality that our schools shape the future of our communities we must not fail to take advantage of this vital opportunity.
By W. Sherman