In my previous post, I asserted that the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees needs to be revamped to make them more accountable to the citizens of Dallas. That would be a big step, however, and would be years in the making, even if we all agreed. Which I'm sure we do not. There is something else that the Board of Trustees could do in the interim to make the Dallas ISD more transparent, more accountable, and perhaps even more efficient.
Citizen Advisory Committees
The Board of Trustees should create citizen advisory committees to assist them in a number of areas including Budget, Audit, Curriculum, Strategic Planning, Health and Safety, Drop Out Prevention, Staff Development and Training, Athletics and other issues. This would be different from and in addition to the sort of temporary "blue ribbon" committee that already exists for the bond program, or that was just formed by the Superintendent for the budget.
Each committee would be a permanent standing committee, with each Trustee appointing one member. These committees would then work with central staff to review procedures, monitor and comment on progress, ask questions (especially hard questions) and to generally help guard against the kind of oversight that brought about the recent/current budget crisis. It would be an opportunity for more direct collaboration between the administrative staff and the community and could assist the Trustees themselves in keeping tabs on the workings of the DISD.
There are a number of precedents for this. In fact, that DISD does not already have such committees could be considered somewhat unusual. The City of Dallas, for instance, maintains 28 advisory committees on a variety of subjects, as well as 15 quasi-judicial boards to help administer city laws. A list of these is available here:
courtesy of my colleague John Miller. The Texas Governor's Office notes that the Governor appoints about 3,000 people to a very long list of boards and committees. A quick look at neighboring school districts also reveals some that have community committees formed almost exactly as I have described.
Currently, community involvement is mostly focused on individual schools. The formal, legislatively mandated system is the Site Based Decision Making (SBDM) committee that is required at each school. The participation in these, however, appears to vary greatly from school to school and we all found out very quickly during the recent budget crisis that individual SBDM recommendations are not necessarily what they are looking for on Ross Avenue (See this Schutze/Wilonsky Observer post, bottom of page 3 and top of page 4). I also fail to find any reference to SBDM on the Dallas ISD web site. As valuable as I believe the SBDM system is, it appears that opportunities for more broadly based community involvement are needed.