In the last few weeks we have seen some very odd behavior by members of the local school board. Some of these members have spoken to the media about their interactions with the principal of Los Alamos High School and have entertained pleas for help by students in regards to the upcoming prom.
I have heard people talking about whether or not the school board members were mistreated when they were asked to leave the school and we have been told that the school board members were just there to listen and help.
What I want to see the school board, and the school district, to answer is why were school board members even getting involved in something such as prom? Have they forgotten their legal standing? New Mexico state law (22-5-4) defines the powers and duties of local school boards. The statute is quotes below:
A local school board shall have the following powers or duties:
A. Subject to the rules of the department, develop educational policies for the school district;
B. Employ a local superintendent for the school district and fix the superintendent’s salary;
C. Review and approve the annual school district budget;
D. Acquire, lease and dispose of property;
E. Have the capacity to sue and be sued;
F. Acquire property by eminent domain pursuant to the procedures in the Eminent Domain Code;
G. Issue general obligation bonds of the school district
H. Provide for the repair of and maintain all property belonging to the school district
I. For good cause and upon order of the school district, subpoena witnesses and documents in connection with a hearing concerning any powers or duties of the local school board;
J. Except for expenditures for salaries, contract for the expenditure of money according to the provisions of the Procurement Code;
K. Adopt rules pertaining to the administration of all powers or duties of the local school board;
L. Accept or reject any charitable gift, grant, devise or bequest. The particular gift, grant, devise or bequest accepted shall be considered an asset of the school district or the public school to which it was given;
M. Offer and, upon compliance with the conditions of such offer, pay rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction or other appropriate disciplinary disposition by the courts or juvenile authorities of offenders in case of theft, defacement or destruction of school district property. All such rewards shall be paid from the school district funds in accordance with rules promulgated by the department; and
N. Give prior approval for any education program in a public school in the school district that is to be conducted, sponsored, carried on or caused to be carried on by a private organization or agency.
I don’t see anywhere in there where school board members are to be available for contact by parents who aren’t satisfied with an answer from a principal or teacher. Nor do I see where the school board has the legal authority to even contact district staff regarding district business. The school board’s interaction with the district is to be focused through their interaction with the local superintendent. Not to say that they couldn’t be available at the district’s request to help, but the school board employs a superintendent who employs staff at all school sites. If they have questions, they should only send inquires through the superintendent or it is reasonable to believe that their presence is designed to intimidate school employees.
Moreover, how does prom fall under any duty or under the power of the school board? It doesn’t! Prom, and it’s execution, isn’t an educational policy. The school board, and the members who have been personally involved with interacting with school staff (other than the superintendent) regarding the prom should officially and publically apologize to the district employees who were contacted by the school board regarding prom, and the school board should publically state that school activities such as prom fall under the sole responsibility and authority of hired district personnel.
Additionally, Dr. Gene Schmidt, as the superintendent, should provide to the district his plan for helping the school board keep their focus on matters that are under the power and that are their duties. The school board already suffers an immense difficulty keeping their meetings to a reasonable amount of time and yet the school board continually wastes time listening to matters over which they have absolutely no legal authority.
If the school board has no duty to act or power to decide, the matters should be handled by site and district administrators and not brought up at school board meetings. If a parent believes the district administrators have failed to act, the school board is limited in their authority to interact with the superintendent. Dr. Schmidt, that means that your responsibility is to ensure that the site administrators are acting within the law and if so you are to support them and remind the school board to keep their time and attention focused where it belongs.
Both the school board and Dr. Schmidt are lacking in their roles by letting matters such as prom take precedence over matters that are of real issue: student testing, teacher and staff salaries, student drug use, and poor building maintenance. Shame on you all! Always remember that while you aren’t there to run the schools each day, you are legally liable to be sued by your staff for inappropriate supervision and imposing on their personal time.