June 4, 2014 10:09:19 AM
When the state charter school authorizing board rejected a Columbus group's plans to open a charter school on Monday, we could not help but notice the irony found in the board's reasoning.
Among the concerns that ultimately led to the unanimous 7-0 vote against granting a charter to the Columbus Coalition for Educational Options, the board noted the planned school had not chosen a principal.
Given the range of responsibilities charter schools require of a principal, the board said it did not feel comfortable granting the charter.
It seems odd to suggest a school should have a principal before it has a school, so we suspect the reasons for the board's reluctance to grant the charter lies a little deeper.
Could it be that the board took one look at the proposed school board and noticed that there wasn't a single person on the board with any experience in the field of education? We suspect that absence of that kind of experience may have influenced the board's decision.
In noting this, we cast no aspersions on the intelligence or motives of the people involved with the local group. In fact, the board applauded the diligence of the Columbus group and its desire to improve the educational opportunities in Columbus.
But even the smartest banker would be a terrible surgeon.
Likewise, pastors and businessmen are likely to be ill-suited for the complexities of starting and maintaining a school system, no matter how pure and honorable their intentions.
The irony is this: Many of the issues that led this group to break away from the Columbus Municipal School District to start at charter school were the same issues that led to the rejection of the group's application. The charter school group cited a lack of confidence in the leadership of the city's school district, which is currently searching for its third superintendent in as many years. The CMSD school board has deteriorated to the point that even the most routine decisions are tedious exercises in bickering, infighting and political pay-backs.
That the city council, which makes appointments to the school board, has yet to appoint a single board member with any experience in the field of education is worth noting. Where are the retired teachers and administrators of our city, people who have a working knowledge of the complexities involved in running a school system? It seems that the primary qualification to serve on the CMSD board is a relationship with the people who make the appointments.
The school board is far too important to the community to be used as a way of granting favors to the friends.
Unfortunately, the school board we have is faced with making a critically important decision.
As the board gets down to the business of selecting a new leader is there any confidence that this group can make the best choice?
As the charter school board recognized, the leader of the school -- whether it be the principal of a charter school or the superintendent of a public school district -- is one of the most important factors in the success or failure of a school system.
The charter school board seemed to be telling the Columbus group that finding that leader is a top priority.
It should be no less a priority for our city's school district.
For all of the missteps and mistakes the CMSD has made, it can make amends for those errors with one wise decision.
Likewise, the charter school group should heed the advice of the charter school. Bring in some educators to the board, then search out the best possible candidate to lead the effort as principal.