Friday, July 7, 2017

The End Of An Era

Yes, it's true, my term on the Hillsboro School Board is complete, and I have now returned to ordinary civilian life.    I'll continue to occasionally post here on education-related topics, but probably not quite as often, and with a slightly more detached perspective.  

This is probably a good time to reflect on what my 4 years on the board have accomplished.   I know many of my friends in the district have been somewhat disappointed by the recent election, where all four of the candidates who I endorsed ended up losing.   (In any case, it justifies my decision not to run again, as I would be in for some frustrating times if I had held on to my seat!)   Unfortunately, some of our policy victories, such as removing the hate-based "Equity" training and preventing schools from dispensing birth control without parental notification,  can be easily and quickly undone by the new board.   However, there are a few areas where actions of the past four years by myself and my board colleagues will have a lasting impact.

  • Open Communication.    I believe I have blogged more openly and consistently than just about any recent Hillsboro board member, and brought issues into the public eye.   This is combined with the fact (largely due to a request from myself and colleague Glenn Miller) all board meetings are now recorded-- audio for "work sessions", and video for full meetings.     While this could technically be rolled back, I doubt any future board would dare.   As a result, future board members and school officials will never be able to claim ignorance about public concern on issues like spending tax dollars to advertise, quietly appointing  insiders to major positions like the ESD board, or using students as political pawns.   And I believe I have contributed to a more informed public that is ready to confront the district about these issues.
  • The Boundary Exchange with Beaverton.   This was primarily the initiative of board colleague Glenn Miller, but was a very important one, which I helped to pass.   As discussed in this blog, it is a regional optimization which will save around $20 million through better distributing the populations in a way that removes the need to build an additional school.     There was some grumbling from board liberals that more of the benefits would go to Beaverton than Hillsboro, but when looking at the region as a whole, it's a clear win for education.
  • Improved terms for City View Charter School.   While I was disappointed that efforts to add an additional charter school fell through,  we renewed City View's contract with some significantly improved terms.   They got a much higher enrollment ceiling (although their lack of a new location has limited their ability to take advantage), and an additional 5% credit for district services on top of the per-student funding they receive.    
  • District educational achievements.   Our district has demonstrated positive achievements in a number of areas over the past few years.   This is of course the core mission of the district-- I list it last here only because it's the area where it's least clear how much the board has mattered, with the achievements mainly due to the efforts of our dedicated staff!    Graduation rates have continued to consistently outperform demographically comparable districts (they may look low, but only when you fail to control for our level of poverty vs the top areas).   HSD's "College and Career Pathways" continue to offer impressive programs in a variety of practical career skills.  And I have been very impressed with the Hillsboro Online Academy, which has continued to grow over the past four years, offering a radical alternative to traditional classroom education that is a lifesaver for certain types of students.

So, although I did not achieve everything I was hoping, and was often frustrated at the huge, immovable walls of bureaucracy and state law, I think my term on the board has been worthwhile, and all those hours of meetings over the last four years have had some tangible results.   I'd love to hear your thoughts as well.