Grading the school board

Students for Education Reform places student observers at board meetings

A group of young education activists will be watching the Board of Education closely during the superintendent selection process and plans to issue a report card when it’s all through.

“We’re trying to pilot a program right now that is aimed at essentially keeping the School Board accountable to specific indicators,” Kenneth Eban, program director for SFER’s Minnesota chapter, said.

Those indicators include: community engagement, conduct, equity, focus and mission, fairness and focus on students.

Eban said the nonprofit’s members have been particularly frustrated by the board’s struggles with community outreach. A frequent attendee of School Board meetings, Eban said he’s also witnessed “infighting” among board members that he described as a distraction from their work.

He said the “board watch” project would focus its attention on good governance principals and how well board members work with one another. SFER Minnesota intends to have three or four members in the audience at each board meeting.

“We don’t actually rate them on their decisions, we rate them on their process,” Eban said.

He noted that process broke down recently when protestors upset by the district’s contract with Reading Horizons managed to disrupt consecutive board meetings. Although it is the role of the superintendent and district staff to select curriculum providers, Eban noted board members have an oversight role.

“As a public, we need to hold our representatives on the school board accountable, and then the school board holds the superintendent accountable,” he said.

SFER groups are also active in California and North Carolina. The Minnesota chapter has previously advocated for increased college and career readiness funding at the state capitol and campaigned to eliminate required remedial coursework for new college students.