Accountability in education administration
It seems in most, if not all public school systems or districts, there is never enough money to satisfy the system. Teachers are still having to purchase school supplies, that should be provided by the system that employs the teachers. That should not be allowed to happen. The top of the system, within the administrative offices, have become so bloated, top-heavy and filled with appointments that could not be justified in any other realm of the work place. The budgets of these schools, in many cases, are nothing less than outrageous. And these are usually the entities that are always complaining about a lack of funding, yet, they continue with their wasteful spending, and lacking any skills when it comes to budgeting and smart spending.
In doing some follow up research on a local issue concerning a school district in Spartanburg County, I discovered a few things that really highlights why the public isn’t aware of what’s going on within their school districts, especially with the school board and the administrators. The first problem is that the public isn’t concerned enough to be motivated to attend a school board meeting. The problem there is that these school board meetings usually do not offer in measurable information in what is actually going on within the school system. It’s interesting to see what actually goes on at your usual school board meeting. Lots of edu-speak, and $-talk. It’s all the fault of some political party or group, or some law or…something. When the public is given an opportunity to speak at these public meetings, once your time is up, you get a cursory, ‘Thank you’ and move along, never getting a proper response, and at times, not even an acknowledgement.
I’ve covered meetings of county commissioners and school boards for many years, and it’s usually the same situation, no matter the state, city or district. You always hear about the good, and the negative is forbidden. In one county in North Carolina that I used to cover, the local newspaper had a contract with the school district for providing billboards, and acted as the marketing agent for the schools. In a nutshell, the school was paying the newspaper for favorable coverage…approximately $92,000 per year. In that particular situation, I contacted the school board, all nine members, and asked about the billboards, etc. Of the 9, only 3 replied, and those 3 had no idea what I was talking about. However, the superintendent would not allow the board to respond, because he had all the answers. Even more so than what I had asked about, which led to even more questions.
This is where I discovered that the same board members had approved deal that would allow an individual representing a billboard/advertising agency to donate a few billboards to the school, when they were available, and the newspaper would design the billboard content, do the marketing, etc. But yet, as 3 confessed, they knew nothing about it, but they voted to approve it…they simply forgot about it. And so it goes.
Which brings us to the issues that I’ve discovered within a school district in Spartanburg County. If you go to the Spartanburg County School District 7 site, you can see that their minutes are up to date, according to the State of SC Department of Education. Now, look at Spartanburg County School District 1 and look at the difference. Of course, SC School District 1 has had issues for the past year or so, regarding their finances. This issue of the board meeting minutes is just another problem that exemplifies the need for transparency. It’s hard to know what’s going on in your school district if there’s no current record of the meetings. Even then, the minutes do not always reflect what actually happened. Many schools are now streaming their board meetings online, so that the public can watch.