Friday, April 01, 2005

Debate in East Liberty

O'Connor picks up Onorato's support - Asked if he supported an elected or appointed Pittsburgh Public Schools board, O'Connor said he favored the current arrangement in which board members are elected.
Lamb called that a 'flip-flop,' contending O'Connor has said he favors an appointed board, even though the mayor's office has no authority over the schools.

The mayor does have a bit of authority over the schools. Our current mayor cut the school crossing guards. That move cost the schools a few million dollars.

The school board in Pittsburgh has been appointed and has been elected. Both have been with ups and downs and one is not clearly the right way to operate in terms of being effective. Both have some merits. We've seen them both over the years.

If I was in charge, I'd want an elected board. The power should reside with the people. I'd love to strengthen our democratic ways, not weaken.

I'd also like to have a role in making more educated voters in the process of school board elections. I've hosted school board candidate forums and would love to do more of them in the futue, even online.

However, the one school board point that I'd love to see come into place in the city deals with the power hungry. Too often our school board members are in those positions to seek personal power, not help with the education. Various candidate manuals encourage people to run for school board first. Then run for other offices later. Even AT&T, and perhaps some other large corporations, used to encourage its employees to run for school board offices. Support was given with work-release time.

In Pittsburgh a number of our school board members, past and present, used the board as a stepping stone to other offices. Valerie, Barbara, and now Mark B are easy examples.

I don't want our schools to be stepped upon. I don't want to see relationships (say with contractors, construction firms and unions) in the school realm be leveraged for political power and gain.

Case in point: Pgh Public Schools has a number of its buildings up for sale. If a developer was to get a sweetheart deal to obtain a property, such as the former South Vo Tech High School, then a payback might be crafted to finance that board member's re-election campaign.

These board members are working all the angles, and that scares me.

To curb the problem, a simple change could be constructed, much like exists in County Council now. Similar rules apply to those who work at the White House.

I don't think school board members should be able to run for other elected office while on the board and for a period of time after exiting the board.

The quality of the performance of the school board members and the untainted judgements of their actions would skyrocket as soon as everyone understood that the school board members were in a dead-end political job.

What Patrick, Alex and Jean (present PPS school board members) say now could be for the benefit of a political posture or the benefit of the students in the district. Everything they do is suspect to a degree.

Most of all, those that want to serve on the school board would serve on the school board. Those that want to use the school board as a stepping stone to advance a political career would go elsewhere.

Michael Diven, ex-D, present opponent in the state senate race, worked with others in his old party to fund certain school board races in the past. The band of cronies used their influence to advance friends and gain their politcal capital. Their PAC, while legal, floundered, as did the board itself. An eventual retraction of foundation support to school programs came because of school board divisions. Political wrangling has trashed the trust of the citizens.

A new rule would defuse the situations with overt political gimics that Diven helped to worsen.

Finally, don't think for a minute that an appointed board would be less politically charged than an elected board. They only would be less accountable.

Pittsburgh needs to get out of its authority madness. We need to get rid of all appointed boards that have powers to govern. I'd also like to see elections with retention votes for PAT board members, the URA board, etc.

No comments: