After such a heated school board race, I was curious to see the first meeting with the new members. Honestly I wasn’t motived enough to go down there, but fortunately it’s available online and on TV if you have Comcast.
After several hours of the old members approving/declining charters, it was clear that the old board majority was sticking together: Easley, Pena, Hoyt, and Seawall voted together every time, while Merida, Jimenez, and Kaplan did not, with various 5-2 configurations (and many 7-0 votes as well). You can read the votes here.
It was no real surprise that the new board, which maintains a majority backed by Hancock, Stand for Children, and similar individuals/groups, would do the same. What saddened me was the blatant signal they sent on their first votes about ignoring other viewpoints.
In their first action, the Board elected Mary Seawall President, Happy Haynes Vice President, Nate Easley Secretary, and Anne Rowe Treasurer. The three other board members, generally seen as supported by the Teachers’ union and opposed by the “reform” crowd, were completely shut out of executive positions.
Dissent is good. Bringing people of different viewpoints to the table is good. At a time that Congress is seen as broken along party lines and those divisions are blamed for a lack of progress, we see a faction, or “slate” as they were called during the campaign, stand together opposing any notion of dissent on a local nonpartisan board. Formerly Jimenez held the Vice President role, which was at least a symbolic gesture that all viewpoints would be considered.
I don’t think there is any one solution to improving DPS, and now every position is held by individuals who have already signaled their uniformity. Add to that Mayor Hancock’s appointment of the head of Stand for Children to his cabinet, and we have an ideological monopoly guiding our schools. We encourage our kids to consider different viewpoints and ways of life, but the people guiding our schools already look like they are not doing the same.
In this last election, Jennifer Draper-Carson nearly unseated Arturo Jimenez, attacking the progress of DPS schools. Organizations like Latinos for Education Reform joined her, with a mixed message proclaiming that the current board majority and superintendent’s plan was a success, but that everything was failing and needed to be changed. It always struck me as convoluted, and despite outspending her opponent dramatically, it didn’t work. However, it did work for both Happy Haynes and Anne Rowe, who defeated their opponents by wide margins.
It also makes me wonder about the next round of elections in two years. With their new (old) majority, will organizations like Stand for Children be able to continue to push candidates who are attacking DPS’ performance? They will, of course, have had a majority for a number of years. Four seats will be up in 2013: Mary Seawall, who showed in her first race that she could raise an unprecedented sum of money (only surpassed now by Happy Haynes), the seat currently held by Jeannie Kaplan (who is term limited), and two controversial board members: Easley and Merida. If there are not dramatic improvements, this monopoly of ideology from the Mayor’s office to the Board will likely be brought into question.