Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

EDITORIAL >> Dysfunctional school district

Almost everyone agrees Pulaski County Special School District is a snarky, dysfunctional body inclined when it deliberates to generate more heat than light.

And that’s essentially what Don Farley, executive director of the Arkansas School Boards Association, told PCSSD board members in an unprecedented letter he sent April 16.

“I read and hear about your board meetings and am amazed by how a board, which is supposed to make policy and stay out of the way of the district’s day-to-day operations, continues to carelessly disregard the concerns of the patrons of the district whose taxes allow it to operate,” wrote Farley.

“It’s time to behave as adults who have an awesome responsibility to the children of Pulaski County and to behave in a way that sets an example for the young people you presumably represent in their quest for an education,” Farley wrote.

“Do some soul searching,” he told the board. “Read and then follow your policies and try to begin a process of reconciliation and healing so you can focus your energies on living up to the standards of the Arkansas school boards. It’s the only right course of action.”

That certainly validates the belief of many district patrons and employees, who can often only shake their heads or curse the fates as they watch the board’s petty, vindictive and sometimes nonsensical actions.

As Alice said, “Curiouser and curiouser.”

This, after all, is a school board that passed a special policy to kick out one veteran board member, installing in her place a rookie with his own agenda and little enough idea of the restraints on his authority and power.

He can’t be bothered with the niceties of abiding by board policy, abiding by the spirit and the law of the Freedom of Information Act, and he’s making waves as he pushes for a new high school in Maumelle, whether or not the district can pay for it.

Now we couldn’t agree more with Farley’s assessment, but we do find it, well, curious, that his letter castigating the board—the only such letter he’s felt compelled to write in 30 years—coincides with proposed legislation that would provide for recall elections of school board members.

If state Rep. Mark Perry, D-Jacksonville, gets his bill turned into law, any school board member could face a recall election on the grounds of “misconduct in office, incompetence, failure to perform prescribed duties, or public dissatisfaction.”

Of the PCSSD board’s storied problems, Farley wrote: “Such behavior was the reason we were left in the recent legislative session to battle a school board recall bill. It wasn’t clear why the bill was even introduced. You, my friends, were the reason for it. And it isn’t going to go away.”

More than ever, north Pulaski County needs its own school district. Farley’s missive makes a convincing case for it. Thank you, sir, for your timely letter.