Saturday, June 14, 2008


From Vanity Fair. Check it out.

Oregon School Board Association: This is what it takes to be a good board member

From the OSBA (which is not exactly a horribly progressive group):

A school board member:

* Understands that the board sets the standards for the district through board policy. Board members do not manage the district on a day-to-day basis.
* Understands that the board makes decisions as a team. Individual board members may not commit the board to any action.
* Respects the right of other board members to have opinions and ideas that differ.
* Recognizes that decisions are made by a majority vote and should be supported by all board members.
* Makes decisions only after the facts are presented and discussed.
* Understands the chain of command and refers problems or complaints to the proper administrative office.
* Recognizes that the board must comply with the Public Meetings Law and has authority to make decisions only at official board meetings.
* Insists that all board and district business is ethical and honest.
* Is open, fair and honest -- has no hidden agenda.
* Understands that he or she will receive confidential information that cannot be shared.
* Recognizes that the superintendent is the board’s adviser and should be present at all meetings, except when the board is considering the superintendent’s evaluation, contract or salary.
* Takes action only after hearing the superintendent’s recommendations.
* Refuses to use board membership for personal or family gain or prestige. Announces conflicts of interest before board action is taken.
* Refuses to bring personal or family problems into board considerations.
* Gives the staff the respect and consideration due skilled professional employees.
* Presents personal criticism of district operations to the superintendent, not to district staff or to a board meeting.
* Respects the right of the public to attend and observe board meetings.
* Respects the right of the public to be informed about district decisions and school operations as allowed by law.

I am going to leave the subject of deciding by who and how often these are violated up to someone else. Preferably, everyone will reach their own conclusion. Lord knows I certainly have reached some of my own.

Hering: I do not understand people

Update: Link to the editorial added. Someone should have told me earlier I forgot to include it.

Hering on the recall of three LCSD board members:

If the recall committee gets enough signatures and makes the ballot, the resulting election should clear the air, either ratifying what Alexander has been trying to accomplish, or backing up the school district administration in going in a different direction altogether.

And if the backers fail to get enough signatures to force an election, that should clear the air as well.

No. Hering is right about one thing: Many, many people will use the outcome as evidence to support their point of view (though just who those people are will depend on the outcome).

However, if Hering is implying that a recall is a decisive event that will settle anything, he's mistaken.

Very few people are simply going to give up and walk away just because they don't like the outcome. Some will; others may. Some will change tactics, or revise their beliefs. But the community and its members are too invested in the Lebanon Community School District to just walk away based on one event, even if it is momentous.

Hering, of course, is not content just to predict that this event will somehow resolve the tension in the district; he's outright calling for it to do so:

In any case, when the current recall attempt is over, one or the other side in the long series of Lebanon school district disputes will have lost and should then retreat from the field, giving Lebanon schools room to reorganize in peace.

If this dispute did not have at its core differences of opinion regarding the future of education - in other words, if it was really only about personalities - then this might stand a chance of happening. As is, what Hering is missing is that there is still a very real, if implied, debate going on regarding the best way to educate people in the LCSD. That debate isn't going to disappear after the recall, no matter how it turns out.

Side note: I've often wondered if Hering just sounds completely ignorant when he sounds off on any given topic, or if he's actually ignorant. This editorial provides me additional clues, as it's about something I have been paying a lot of attention to. I think Hering doesn't really understand the situation all that well. He should let someone else write the editorials about the LCSD - Jennifer Moody, perhaps (though of course she would not be able to sign them).

DH story on Fandiño's stepping down as LEA President

As usual, it was a good story. There was one thing that caught my eye:

She slammed the district’s ability-grouping strategy it calls the Student Achievement System, saying she removed her own daughter to keep her with her peers through graduation.

The implication here is that Fandiño supports social promotion. I'm a little surprised by that, actually.

Social promotion - promoting students from one grade to the next, usually in grades 1-8, almost regardless of achievement, in order for them to remain with the same group of students - has academic consequences. However, I think it also has social benefits. For the latter reason, I am a tiny bit wary of ending it as a practice (but only a tiny bit). However, I am surprised Fandiño seems to support social promotion at all. Maybe I'm wrong, and am reading too much into this paragraph. However, I doubt it.

Pioneer School teacher Sabrina Wood is scheduled to become the next LEA President. I know Sabrina Wood's reputation, and it's a great one. I will be surprised if Wood does not put forth significant effort towards consensus-building and increasing communication. It will be interesting to see how the district responds to someone else in the position besides Fandiño.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Oregon School Board Association

From the "Is Your School Board Dysfunctional?" page:

Dysfunctional board behaviors have common denominators. These checkpoints can help you avoid them.

"Lack of leadership" is a frequently discussed topic in many school districts. While the conversation can center on administrators and teachers, the topic seems to surface most frequently when people talk about school boards.

The first indicator of a problem is thinking that one's election to the school board qualifies one to lead. The second symptom is believing that one's election to the school board qualifies one to lead.

On this planet leadership is not the result of electoral success. To underline the point, here are some examples of elected school board members who are dysfunctional leaders:


A newly elected school board member files a freedom of information request two weeks after his election (and before attending his first board meeting!) seeking the balance in the school district's Christmas Club account. Because his family squirrels away money in such an account, he assumes that the school district does the same thing.


A newly elected school board member wants to approve every news release issued by the school district, and wants final editing rights on the school district newsletter.


A newly elected school board majority votes to assign members of the board to district classrooms for the purpose of evaluating teachers.


A waiter elected to the school board begins his tenure by telling cooks what to serve in the school lunch program.


A newly elected school board member spills all the details of an executive session on negotiations to the union.


A school board member requests a master key so that he can randomly visit class rooms and school offices nights and weekends.

All of these elected officials probably believe that they're doing the right thing. But the reality is that none of them is moving the system forward, let alone contributing to the well being of students. They are -- as business people might say -- "in over their heads."

School boards will have to overcome dysfunctions like this if their school districts are to improve student achievement and capitalize on the opportunities presented by the future.

Fortunately, dysfunctional behaviors like those above have some common denominators. That makes them easier to diagnose and remedy.

For example, there is a relationship between misunderstanding one's role and the tendency to find yourself in over your head. Other commonalities include the absence of school board orientation programs, a lack of district direction, and a planning process that never progresses to implementation.

There's a lot of interesting stuff on the OSBA website. Some of it I sort of want to post. Let's see if I get around to it this weekend.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Is that all we are?

One of the subtexts of many of the comments regarding the ongoing brouhaha in the Lebanon Community School District is the fact that since it's a small town, the same names - and relationships - keep appearing. For many, this is often seen as a sign of conspiracy.

I want to steal a point made by my friend Michael Faris (you'll have to scroll down quite a bit to find it):

To focus solely on the instructor-student relationship serves to hide the various other ways that we are in relation to each other: residents of Corvallis, residents of Oregon, residents of the United States of America, members of various marginalized or non-marginalized groups. It also neglects that I am an alum of Oregon State University and have an investment as an alum and a former member of the student body. The claim that this could harm student-teacher relations also neglects that it could help student-teacher relations in some situations.

The context is different, but I think the underlying point is remarkably similar: We all have multiple aspects to our identity, to who we are. Furthermore, these multiple aspects can be mistakenly understood as being in conflict or being at odds, or illegitimate in some situations.

I raise this as a response to the commenter who made the point that Linda Darling is both the new business manager and has played a minor part in the ongoing recall effort.

My response: So what?

The reason I have that response? See Michael's comment. In other words - and this is especially true in a small community - people's jobs do not preclude them from having opinions or beliefs about their employer or the community. It is not shocking, or a conspiracy, that someone like Linda Darling (or Tre Kennedy) would hold the views they have. Their relationships with others or positions in the community don't necessarily preclude their holding those views, or provide evidence of a conspiracy. As Michael makes clear (albeit by extension), the people that work in the LCSD, who may work for or with Jim Robinson, are also members of the community, and as such, have the right to be active in the community as members of the community, not just as school district employees or coworkers of others. We should not begrudge them that.

LHS Graduation

I attended this year's LHS graduation. It went well, with no major and few minor hiccups.

There was one thing that really got me, however. A certain unnamed speaker, who I believe will be the Principal at LHS next year, used the phrase "Homeland Security" in his speech. It wasn't clear, but I believe he was talking about all the things that this year's LHS grads will be responsible for in the future (among them, I think, were the eradication of disease, taking over Homeland Security, and peace). So the context was not as gross as it could have been.

However, the appearance of the phrase in this context made something clear to me: We need to eradicate that phrase from the English language. It needs to be an anachronism or used only in an ironic fashion. (The same goes for the department, by the way).

It's an embarrassing relic from an embarrassing, shameful time in American history, worthy only of mockery. It needs to go.

Lebanon Recall Expands to Include Alexander, Wineteer

From the DH:

LEBANON — The political action committee pursuing a recall of Lebanon School Board member Debi Shimmin has expanded its efforts to include board members Rick Alexander and Josh Wineteer.

Representatives with the Lebanon Citizens Alliance for a Responsible Education System, or CARES, filed the additional recall petitions for Alexander and Wineteer on June 5 with the Linn County Elections Office.

It's stated in the article that the disappearance of Sprenger from the board was a motivating factor, and that makes sense.

Also as stated in the article, if the recall succeeds, the Linn-Benton-Lincoln ESD will be appointing three new members.

My initial reaction: This actually might make the recall less likely to succeed, as people are going to wary of what they perceive as outsiders picking board members. It also might generate more backlash, as the recall will now cover over half the board.

That said, if it succeeds, we might get more professional board members if the ESD picks them.

Also, it is an understandable response to Sprenger's resignation; I wouldn't necessarily want the remaining four to pick her replacement, either. Kennedy was right that Sprenger was a calming factor.

Maybe more later, but I have a lot of graduation stuff to deal with this weekend.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Get off my lawn, part XVIII

Another high school commencement season is almost over. The graduates don’t need any advice and would not take it if it was given.

Really? Not one grad, huh?

Could he have written anything more self-centered?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Hering: Hate crime laws are unnecessary


Some day our hate-crimes laws may go too far. The creation of this category of crime was not really necessary in order to prosecute offenses. Threatening behavior, doing damage or causing injury could always be prosecuted even without the additional label.

He misses the crux of the argument for hate crime laws: Committing a crime for the specific reason of intimidating a particular population, because the crime is motivated by hatred, is substantially different - substantially worse - than doing it for some other reason. For example, something like burning a cross on someone's lawn does a lot more damage than just burn the lawn: it can frighten whole communities.

Also, this:

But by adding the label and enhancing the penalties we’ve taken a step toward the way they make laws in France.

That falls well foul of the slippery slope fallacy.

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