Tag Archives: Louis Gerstner

What is the Role of a Board of Education in a Mayoral Control City? Can de Blasio and an Independent Board Co-Exist?

If we live in a mayoral control city, what is the role of the board of education (Panel for Educational Excellence)?

In the months and months of the mayoral campaign, candidate, now Mayor-elect de Blasio laid out a comprehensive list of “likes,” full day pre-K and an extended day in high poverty middle schools paid for by higher taxes on the rich. smaller class size, more art, music and physical education, more use of portfolio assessment and selecting principals from among experienced teachers.

On the “dislike” side: closing schools, letter grades for schools, co-location of charter schools in public schools and high stakes testing.

For the last decade the mayor has run the department of education – the board of education, in New York City called the Panel for Educational Excellence. Early on when two board members voted against a mayoral policy they were immediately replaced.

In effect, we had no functioning board of education.

School boards across the nation are elected in local elections – the boards hire superintendents, set policy including curriculum, negotiate teacher contracts, set school tax rates usually based on assessed value of property. School boards have their origin in the eighteenth century.

Louis Gerstner, the former CEO of IBM, in the Wall Street Journal, sees school boards as retrograde,

I believe the problem lies with the structure and corporate governance of our public schools. We have over 15,000 school districts in America; each of them, in its own way, is involved in standards, curriculum, teacher selection, classroom rules and so on. This unbelievably unwieldy structure is incapable of executing a program of fundamental change. While we have islands of excellence as a result of great reform programs, we continually fail to scale up systemic change.

Diane Ravitch, in Forbes, disagrees with Gerstner,

School boards play an important role as defenders of the public interest in education. They are part of the democratic process of decision-making. School boards might slow down decision making, but that is part of their job. They offer a forum where the public may be heard, where problems may be raised, where executive decisions may be challenged. At hearings, school officials must explain and defend their decisions and budget proposals. Listening to the public about how its children will be educated and how its money will be spent does slow down the decision-making process

For decades New York City has had appointed school boards, from 1970 until 2002 the board was appointed by the borough presidents and the mayor. While the board was the de jure leader of education in the city the de facto leader was the mayor. Mayors claimed credit for successes and blamed the board for failures, and, if necessary were always able to garner enough votes to fire and hire new chancellors. Esmerelda Simmons, a Dinkins appointee to the board paints a dreary picture of a board spending its time carrying out political contracts for their patrons.

The 2002 New York City Mayoral law grants powers to the 13-member board, eight of whom are selected by the mayor, The law lays out the “Powers and duties of the city board,”

2590-g. Powers and duties of the city board. The city board shall
advise the chancellor on matters of policy affecting the welfare of the
city school district and its pupils. The board shall exercise no
executive power and perform no executive or administrative functions.
(a) approve standards, policies, and objectives proposed by the
chancellor directly related to educational achievement and student
(b) consider and approve any other standards, policies, and objectives
as specifically authorized or required by state or federal law or
(c) approve all regulations proposed by the chancellor or the city
board and any amendments made thereto;

The powers of the board are vague, and, up till now the board has exercised no powers, they simply rubber stamped the decisions of the mayor/chancellor.

Will the new board, the board appointed by de Blasio have the authority to reject decisions of the chancellor? How independent will the eight de Blasio appointed members be?

We do not have models.

Mayoral control has meant that education policy is set in City Hall.

How do you blend a mayoral control system with a policy board who oversees the actions of the chancellor?

If de Blasio appoints a board made up of well-respected New Yorkers will he abide by their decisions if they are not in line with his campaign promises?

The Mayoral-elect has a challenging task.