Code of Ethics, The Good News and The Bad

 

In regards to the new Code of Ethics the school board is considering, there is some good news and some bad news.

Let's start with the good news:

First, it appears the district's legal council has reviewed and approved the policy.

Second, and more importantly, this is still only in the first reading stage and can be fixed (see the bad news) 

Now for the bad news:

This Code of Ethics policy only applies to the board members, not the members of the administration. This wouldn't be so bad if the board had a separate code of ethics policy for the superintendents but I have been unable to find one. I will ask them about this at the next meeting and report back what I find.

The only people who can bring a board member up on charges that they violated the code of ethics are the other board members and there must be at least two of them to agree. There is no provision for a member of the public to file an ethics complaint. At least one that won't get lost (or hidden) in the district's current process. This means our elected officials are the only ones policing themselves. How's that working for us across the country now? Don't misunderstand, as voters, I believe we can police them by not re-electing them but our School Board President and Superintendent are the ones who have opened this can of worms about censuring board members for violating their code of ethics.

There is very little mention about the board's responsibility to oversee and hold accountable the administration. In our board's proposed policy, under the section titled “Board – Superintendent Relationship” there is a brief reference to accountablility:

Giving the Superintendent full administrative authority for properly discharging the Superintendent’s professional duties, and by also holding the Superintendent responsible for acceptable results

However if you read the CSBA's (California School Board Association) "Role of the Board" document, you will find how much importance they place on the board's oversight responsibilities.

Citizen oversight of local government is the cornerstone of democracy in the United States. The role of the trustees who sit on locally elected school boards is to ensure that school districts are responsive to the values, beliefs and priorities of their communities. Boards fulfill this role by performing five major responsibilities These are setting direction; establishing an effective and efficient structure; providing support; ensuring accountability; and providing community leadership as advocates for children, the school district and public schools. These five responsibilities represent core functions that are so fundamental to a school system's accountability to the public that they can only be performed by an elected governing body.

This "Role of the Board" document is the closest thing the CSBA has to a code of ethics. The quotes in this post are from this document and you can click here to read the entire document.

Here is the CSBA's idea of accountablility: 

Ensuring accountability to the public

As community representatives, boards are accountable to the public for the performance of the community’s schools. Boards establish systems and processes to monitor results, evaluate the school system’s progress toward accomplishing the district’s vision and communicate that progress to the local community. In order to ensure personnel, program and fiscal accountability, boards are responsible for: 

• Evaluating the superintendent and setting policy for the evaluation of other personnel

• Monitoring, reviewing and revising policies

• Serving as a judicial and appeals body

• Monitoring student achievement and program effectiveness and requiring program changes as indicated

• Monitoring and adjusting district finances

• Monitoring the collective bargaining process

The CSBA is often quoted by our board president as the ultimate source for our district's policy and regulations. It's curious to me that very little of this document is included in the proposed policy. Especially considering how important the CSBA thinks this document is.