Does It Matter Who We Elect To The School Board?

Martin County elected two new school board members who are not enthralled with everything that has been done in the past at the district.

I am writing this the day before Jen Russell and Amy Pritchett are sworn into office. Only time will tell if they were the right choice. Will they be change agents or realize that, because of the education bureaucracy in Tallahassee, they are helpless in doing much?

They were elected by the voters with the hopes of overcoming a district that many believed put the well-being of teachers and administrators over that of the students. With their election, will the board tilt more in favor of the charter school movement and/or the narrowing of choice in what books would be allowed on campus?

The three current board members, Roberts, Powers, and DiTerlizzi, are not exactly crazed liberals. Roberts is a fiscal conservative and Powers and DiTerlizzi are more socially conservative. Does any of this really matter?

Tallahassee proscribes just about everything from the tax rate to be levied to how much can be spent in many categories of school spending. Like many states, Florida concentrates educational policy in its state bureaucracy’s hands leaving very little for the local boards to decide. School boards, county commissions, and municipal councils are finding fewer and fewer areas where they can exercise independent control.

When it comes to traditional public schools, Tallahassee does not allow much experimentation in educational thought. They do not allow districts the freedom to craft as much of the syllabus as I would like to see them able to do. Is that approach the best for allowing a broad spectrum of educational choices?

I believe there should be a broad curriculum with all manner of ideas being introduced. I do agree that in the early years, children should be given basic knowledge. Without that they can’t independently come to their own thoughts. However, by the time students reach puberty, they ought to be able to take two contrasting ideas and explore both.

The Socratic method of questions, answers, and more questions is a great way of instilling how to think in children. It allows the students to find the answer through rigorous analysis. The students and teacher must operate with the same set of facts. But then different outcomes can be explored. Using this approach gives students the chance to discover other possible outcomes and consider how would history have been different if a different outcome had prevailed.

If we truly want to have more than just rote memorization, then the classroom has to be open to many possibilities and thought. Public education has moved away from this form or pedagogy. While who we elect is important to an extent, if the state continues to meddle in our schools at every level, education will be held hostage to the politics of the moment.



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Thomas F Campenni

Currently lives in Stuart Florida and former City Commissioner. His career has been as a commercial real estate owner, broker and manger in New York City.