This is a Hub Debate on the role of boards of education. For more background, read this. Participate in the comments or submit a response for publication to UtahPoliticoHub@gmail.com. The question is: “Who do you think the board should serve? Parents? Students? Why?
Students should be at the center of every decision made by a state or local school board. Educating students and preparing them to be productive members of society should be at the forefront of the work of school boards. School boards should ensure that all students have the opportunity to learn from master educators.
The goal of Governor Herbert and Prosperity 2020 to have 66% of adults in Utah with a post-secondary certificate or degree by the year 2020 is lofty but needed (http://prosperity2020.com/the-vision/). If school boards are supportive of this goal, they will look at changes to course offerings at the secondary level and the rigor of all classes, so students will have the skills necessary to complete post-secondary training without remediation. Some parents may not like changes to course offerings or increased rigor, because they are not able to assist their children in their studies.
At the state level, the school board should ensure high quality teacher preparation programs that align with the National Council for the Teaching Profession standards (http://www.myuea.org/sites/utahedu/Uploads/files/Leaders%20Staff/Committes%20and%20Task%20Forces/EDXReport2014.pdf). Creating a master teacher starts with a solid foundation through teacher preparation programs. Local school boards should then have strong induction and mentor programs to help new teachers become master teachers.
School boards should be directing administration to establish programs of professional development and collaboration for teachers to stay current on best practices of teaching and learning. Making sure students have the resources needed to learn should be a priority as well. Having master teachers in every classroom will have a great impact on student achievement, enabling students to gain skills to be successful and productive citizens, no matter what resources are available. A combination of a master teacher provided with professional development and collaboration and the right resources will benefit all students.
Some decisions made by school boards may not seem to have an impact on students, but they do. When a school board makes boundary changes, they are giving students more access to shared resources like gymnasiums, computer labs, and media centers. When a school board approves expenditures for improvements in school facilities, they are providing students with a safe place to learn. When a school board negotiates higher salaries for employees, they are ensuring quality educators and classified employees who work with students daily will stay with that district.
Most parents in Utah choose the public school system to help them in their responsibility to educate their children. Because public schools are governed by school boards, they act in loco parentis in this responsibility. The best interests of students should be at the heart of every decision made by both state and local school boards.