On November 22, I posted a blog titled Poke the Bear, a reference to an article in the November 20 edition of the Dallas Morning News. My commentary about what I perceived as an unfair slight on the efforts and commitment of school board trustees stands. Following the post of my blog and a subsequent post on Twitter, I took the opportunity to reach out directly to the author of the article to challenge certain of the statements and I welcome the opportunity to continue my discussion with him early next week. And that is as it should be for both of us.
I have also received criticism from one of those who supported the testimony at the Senate Education Committee meeting referenced in the article. In a tweet responding to me, she stated that "Denial proves @DaveLieber groupthink theory right". So I guess I still have a ways to go in the discussion with those with whom I differ. But that's fine; I remain committed and passionate in my belief that the vast majority of trustees are acting in the best interest of students, testimony and article to the contrary.
I have taken time to reflect on the training I received and how the board on which I served operated. Training options available to trustees are many, including training at TASB-sponsored events, local association activities and on-line opportunities. Was the training always what I was seeking and was the quality of the training always perfect? Certainly not, but how does that differ from college courses we all have taken or training provided through our jobs?
As for how my local board operated, yes, we did have a majority of votes at the board table that were unanimous. But is this a result of collusion or "groupthink"? I don't think so. Engaged trustees are in constant communication with the administration and there is a clear effort on trustees' part to understand the ramifications of decisions made and actions proposed by the administration.
It's not like the administration presents an item to the board at a board meeting for the first time. When presented, items are discussed by the board and administration, often at great length, before a vote is called. Does the fact that the art of negotiation that results in a vote suggest groupthink? I don't think so!
To suggest that TASB-sponsored training is a form of groupthink and indoctrination is just not right. Trustees are elected by their communities and a view that community members are not engaged enough with their local schools to take action to address these concerns is an indictment of community members as well. I don't get it!
We can respond to what I perceive as unfair accusations in any number of ways. I have chosen to voice my concerns in a manner that has created an open dialog with those who have a different perspective than I do. Through that process, I will have an opportunity to share my views while listening to those of others. In reality, this discussion, like others relating to public education, will help us focus on the importance of public education in our communities and across the state, the importance of making education a priority. This time, the discussion is about trustees and how their actions impact the more than 5.3 million students in the state. Perhaps at some point, we might even see a different headline, one that reflects "Trustees: Working on behalf of all students".