Experts Tell Seattle School Board to Get its Act Together

Jul 18, 2013

A group of local and national experts is calling on the Seattle School Board to get its act together.

Specialists in school district governance say the research is clear: School board dysfunction matters. Seattle Pacific University professor Thomas Alsbury said drama in the board room can poison the whole organization, which affects students.

“When boards and central office leaders are viewed as unstable or chaotic, excellent principals and teachers choose to go elsewhere,” he said.

Speaking before a conference in Seattle of the Council of Urban Boards of Education, the experts urged Seattle’s school board to adopt a group of recommendations, which include calls to work together, collaborate with staff, and establish shared values.

They didn’t indict Seattle’s board by name, but the context is clear. In a self-evaluation by the board released last month, one member warned of becoming “the poster child for a dysfunctional school board.” Another anonymous quote: “A board like this will repel all people of quality.”

Professor Alsbury said the bright side is that boards can change.

“When we present information that that conflict actually harms kids, they become very serious about reconciling. And we’ve seen great affect in that,” he said.

Asked if he’d been able to deliver that message to Seattle’s board, Alsbury said, “Not yet.”