As a member of Linwood’s current Type I appointed school board, let me point out some facts and dispel the misinformation that is circulating in our community regarding the upcoming election.
The mayor’s selections to the Board of Education are based on the expertise of the candidate and that person’s willingness to serve. An appointed board gives the public individuals who can assist the administration by having professional backgrounds that are in line with running a school district. As opposed to an elected board, all candidates are thoroughly vetted by the mayor and council. All of the current board members are in daily communication with our support organizations; LEF, PTO, SSPAC, as well as teacher groups, county and state school board associations.
Look at the Linwood Schools website and read the qualifications of our appointed school board members. They all serve with civility toward each other and the public. Unfortunately, many elected boards are motivated by political ambition and display unsavory behavior at public meetings. Randomly elected board members bring their own “agenda” to the board. There is only one agenda – the education of our children.
In an appointed school district, the budget is approved by the Board of School Estimate. This is composed of the mayor, two council people and two school board members. The majority of the Board of School Estimate is controlled by elected officials, 3-2. Accountability to the public is stronger with an appointed board, as the Board of School Estimate has a 3-2 vote advantage with an elected official majority. Thus, the worst case budget scenario is with an elected board. If the elected board keeps the budget from increasing more than 2 percent from the previous year’s budget, then no public vote is required.
The Linwood School District budget is approximately $14 million. An elected board can spend $280,000 without voter approval. The make-up of your board determines the outcome of your budget vote. The elected board must be fiscally responsible to residents with no children in the district as well as those with children in the school system.
Having a strong working relationship among board members is a huge advantage. As president of the county school boards association, I see examples of infighting and divisiveness that fragment a board and is detrimental to the students. Politics should not be involved in education. It is a deterrent to the job at hand. No one is trying to skirt the democratic process and not give all citizens a vote. Partisan politics and special interests do not belong in the public schools.
Clearly, the advantages of an appointed school board far outweigh those of an elected board. Linwood has had an excellent school district for over 100 years. We should keep it that way.