School accountability: It is up to the parents
In Hooksett last week, parents did something parents too seldom do. They confronted the school board. We need to see more of this, all over the state.
Hooksett’s board is dysfunctional, perhaps unusually so. Many school boards (and other elected bodies, for that matter) are divided into factions that distrust, undermine and bicker incessantly with one another. In Hooksett, the school board seems to be trying to perfect such drama, as though it is a form of performance art.
Tuesday a week ago, parents showed up at a board meeting and tried to put a stop to the nonsense. “I’m asking the board to remember why you are serving on the board,” said Don Flood, a parent with six children who have passed through or are still enrolled in Hooksett schools. Nice thing to say, but maybe a bit naive. Where is it written that school board members anywhere serve for the purpose of helping children?
Some people run for school board to make the public schools better. Not everyone does. Some want to help their friends who work in the school system. Some want to be in charge of something, it little matters what. Some just like arguing and fighting. And sometimes even those with the best intentions get caught up in the in-fighting and lose sight of the bigger picture.
It was heartening to see Hooksett parents come out and challenge their school board last week. Too often parents assume that the public school system will run itself. They don’t participate beyond helping the kids with their homework (if they even do that). But school systems, like any other institution, don’t run themselves. They need guidance and leadership. If parents do not provide that, it might never be delivered. Getting elected to a public body does not automatically bring with it leadership skills or wisdom.
Holding elected officials accountable is a tough task. It requires ongoing involvement, not just showing up on Election Day. If more parents took the initiative and held their school boards accountable for their failures — and congratulated them for their successes — imagine how much better our public school systems would be.