John Schaffer: What are school board’s priorities?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 21, 2015

By John Schaffer

Special to the Salisbury Post

Before deciding to move to Salisbury two years ago I learned that, as with most communities, there is a mix of the good and the not-so-good. In the latter group is the quality of the local schools, as reported by the sources available on the web at the time. Then I read Sunday’s article by School Board Chair Josh Wagner (“2015 a busy year for school board”). Frankly, I could not be more disheartened.

I understand that all activities could not be commented upon in one article, and thus I expected the items discussed in this article to be the most compelling, important, and perhaps urgent, on the slate.

My take-aways are that the priorities of this board are construction necessities, safety necessities, new quarters for oversight activities, and of all things, retained attorneys for the board. At best, these are peripheral to actual education.

At worst, it shows us taxpayers why education is so ridiculously expensive. In this seminal article, not once was there mention of guidance, planning, programs or any emphasis on teacher-student interactions, the heart of education. Most distressing, there was no mention of any goals to improve student education nor the weak rankings our schools have “earned.” If these issues belong solely to the superintendent and below, what do we need the board for?

Also, Wagner’s priorities have been mentioned before in a Post article eight months ago. That leads me to believe little has been accomplished in those months. After Wagner’s two years as a board member and an additional year as chair, I had the expectation of better, or at least more.

I claim ignorance of many issues that education faces today, but that said, I really don’t understand how logistics plans, maintenance and safety programs that are all necessary anyway, lawyers for the board, a new spiffy admin center, and the other items in the article even remotely help our students and schools overcome their well-advertised weaknesses.

In the previous article, Wagner mentioned the board’s role is to support the superintendent. If that’s it, or even the primary focus, again, why do we need the board at all? Every board I’ve ever reported to or been a part of had as its primary role the strategic direction of whatever entity it was formed to direct. What am I missing?

I’m sure others will say: “Oh, you don’t understand!” or “You aren’t aware of all Board actions.” Others are right, I don’t. So help me understand because from what I see, it isn’t working.

John Schaffer lives in Salisbury.