This article first appeared in The Blue Line:
With just a few days to gather signatures, the following letter was submitted at the March 8th Boulder Valley School Board meeting with 164 signatures from staff and teachers at 5 high schools and 2 middle schools:
We, the undersigned teachers in the Boulder Valley School District, believe that the current situation warrants an authentic national search for a new superintendent. If a suitable candidate is not available, this might mean that an interim superintendent is appointed for the following year. Many of us are taxpayers in the district and have children attending BVSD schools; therefore, our interests are as citizens and parents as well as employees.
Parents do not have time to oversee every aspect of their children’s education. They count on the schools to provide what is needed and trust that the district will rely on data and principles when making decisions. In order to foster this trust, the new superintendent must commit to being accountable in the following four areas:
- Financial accountability: The new superintendent must pledge that the district will follow modern accounting practices. To help manage the numerous financial responsibilities, the superintendent should bring back the position of Chief Operating Officer (COO) to oversee district spending. The COO would structure the financial reports to track expenditures versus the budget on a monthly basis; this is standard practice in the private sector. When BVSD had a COO, the difference between what was budgeted and what was spent was managed closely and there were no pots of unmonitored funds. The superintendent must also work with the administration and the school board to ensure that when budgets must be cut, maintaining direct funding to the classrooms is the priority.
- Staff respect and accountability: The new superintendent must work to end the adversarial relationship between central administration and school-based staff. Well-managed companies in the private sector treat employees as valuable investments and partners in success. This requires genuine communication between the district, the staff and the community to restore trust between these three groups, rather than meetings calling for input that then seems to be ignored. In the aftermath of Senate Bill 191, it is critical to develop effective means of hiring and retaining quality teachers and to devise and implement a comprehensive teacher evaluation plan that does not rely solely on test scores.
- Program accountability: The new superintendent must work effectively to expand educational opportunities for all students, regardless of achievement levels. Eliminating D’s and F’s does not improve learning; it only creates grade inflation. Every special program has the potential to draw money away from the regular classroom, leading to increased class size and the problems associated with overloading a classroom. Programs to support student learning must be evaluated regularly for effectiveness. The evaluation process must include teacher input since they are the ones most involved with the programs on a daily basis and ineffective programs must be terminated.
- District accountability: The superintendent must participate in benchmarking programs that compare the best-run districts in the state and the nation. Data from benchmarking supports informed decision making processes.
These four elements are crucial to creating an effective learning environment, and must be considered when hiring a new superintendent.