Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Who Should Lead Our Ann Arbor School Board in 2017?

We are numb. We recently elected a billionaire demagogue for US President with authoritarian tendencies who is poised to implement austerity. Our futures are uncertain, funding for basic life sustaining needs like food and shelter are at risk for the least fortunate among us. Our children are at risk for losing even more funding with Betsy DeVos as incoming US Secretary of Education. We are going to be presented with budgets that are unsustainable for our public schools. 

When I spoke with Christine Stead last Thursday December 8 [the day after the board meeting], she said "I think we need new leadership for our next phase of work serving students and community." I agree with Christine. We need new leadership for our Ann Arbor public school board. 

Christine thinks we need new leadership, but she is also convinced that we should appoint Deb Mexicotte to the open seat left by Donna Lasinski. This is inconsistent thinking. In addition to this inconsistency, let's not forget that Mexicotte would be resigning the seat she lost in the election on Nov 8, to accept appointment to this seat vacated by Lasinski. 

Tell me what democracy looks like, because this whole set-up seems like an anti-democratic precedent for Ann Arbor Schools governance. 

Is that who we are now, fellow Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor residents?

Deb Mexicotte is a good corporate-style manager. She can manage budgets and swim past the workers she/we throw under the proverbial school bus. But, that is not the leader we need right now. We need a leader who is going to fight to fund the education of each and every one of the children/young adults in our communities.

So who do I think the board should pick? I read the materials and I think all the other candidates are qualified and bring good perspectives, represent key constituencies in order to lead us in the direction of full funding for schools. 

I am going to let the group decide on that with one caveat: I think that choosing Hunter Van Valkenberg would be a mistake here. While I value his voice and connections with organized labor [I'll admit it: I'm a fan of unions], I think that it might be better to pick one of the other candidates. If we take Deb and Hunter out of the running, I think we could find common ground with one of the other candidates. Perhaps current board members could discuss which of the other candidates have the leadership qualities needed for our children and communities.

I trust that our Ann Arbor School Board Trustees will be very careful at this juncture in our local/state/national political-cultural climate. We need to orient ourselves toward a leadership-management model. We also need to reclaim the common ground that has thus far eluded us on this particular issue: getting our elected leaders at the local and state levels to appropriately fund all necessary school resources for our children, our young adults and our future.

Ann Arbor School Board meeting takes place tonight Wednesday Dec. 14 at 7pm at Forsythe Middle School 1655 Newport Road. There will *not* be public commentary time before the selection is announced, I'm told.