Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mayor should replace school board, member says

By JAIME SARRIO • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • January 22, 2008 Ousting Director of Schools Pedro Garcia isn’t the only change that should be made in Metro schools, says District 8 school board member David Fox. The Board of Education should be wiped out and new members appointed by the mayor. That can’t happen immediately because board members are elected by Davidson County voters, but Fox wants state law changed to let the mayor pick a school board as soon as next year. The freshman board member made the announcement Tuesday morning as the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce was unveiling its annual recommendations for the district. He wants to change state law to follow the lead of cities such as Washington and New York and allow the mayor to cherry pick Metro’s board. Fox said he’s not trying to stir up trouble with the board and plans to stay on until changes are made. He just thinks elected officials may not qualified to run an organization like Metro schools, which has some 10,000 employees, and a $600 million budget. “We must have people who have experience successfully leading or governing big organizations through challenging times,” he said in a statement. “You can assemble a board populated with those rare skills and experiences only though a careful appointment process.” Some board members disagreed. Gracie Porter, who represents parts of East Nashville, said allowing the mayor to appoint the board would take the power away from the people. “In my opinion, it has no bearing on how a child performs in the classroom,” she said. “That’s left up to teachers and principals at the schools, not to us as elected officials.” Fox said he hadn’t discussed with Mayor Karl Dean whether he would want to take on the responsibility of selecting a school board. Dean wouldn’t say whether he is open to the idea. “I share Mr. Fox’s eagerness to see real changes made in our schools and I certainly appreciate his recognizing my commitment to improving our school system,” he said. “Having entered into a new error of accountability under No Child Left Behind, I recognize the future success of our schools will be reflected by the need for more involvement between local government and the school district.” Fox said he would like the new board to coincide with the appointment of a new schools director. He said that even though he has business experience as a consultant, he would not expect to be appointed to the new board. Fox is a former Tennessean business reporter and a founder of Akin Elementary parent Virginia Pupo-Walker thinks the appointed board is a bad idea. “I think voters have a vested interest in who represents them,” she said. “I don’t think it would serve the public as well if they’re not beholden to them. They would beholden to the mayor and his agenda.”

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