September 21 — 10:17 pm, 2011

How shall we choose our leaders?

Editors’ note: To give all of our readers, both on the web and in print, an opportunity to share their thoughts, we have changed the name and scope of our letters column.

We encourage readers to continue to mail, fax, or email letters to the editor (see box below). But we are also making space here for a variety of types of feedback – from comments via email, on blog posts, and through tweets. We will tell you how each came to us.

While the Notebook website allows anonymous comments, this column is reserved for signed comments only, where we can verify the identity of the author.

A comment on Ron Whitehorne’s blog post "No trust for an elected school board?"

How a school board or a board of trustees is chosen is the most important decision in the governance of any organization. It is even more critical in a public school system that is a "public trust."

A school board can be elected, appointed, or a mix of the two. As Sen. Andy Dinniman said when he and Sen. Mike Stack introduced Senate Bill 1210, "Philadelphia is the only school district in Pennsylvania without an elected school board."

The proposed legislation to enact an elected board in Philadelphia is a good starting point for our much-needed public discussion. However, we need to think about whether the school board or the mayor hires the superintendent. Almost all of the state’s superintendents are appointed by their school board. If the mayor appoints the superintendent and can fire the superintendent, it could undermine the authority of the elected board.

Most school boards choose their superintendents with community involvement in a transparent and participatory manner. Any new legislation should include a mandate for participation and input from the community in the superintendent selection process.

That would be a more effective way of choosing our superintendent.

A mix of elected and appointed board members may be best: for instance, four elected by the people, one appointed by the mayor, one by the governor, and one selected by City Council. That gives a balance to the board and gives "shared ownership" of what happens in the District.

Any election of school board members should be "nonpartisan."

I believe we can trust the people of Philadelphia. Why should Philadelphians be treated differently than other citizens of the Commonwealth?

-Rich Migliore

The writer is a retired School District administrator, an attorney, and author of Whose School Is It? The Democratic Imperative for Our Schools.

the notebook

Our news is free to read, but not to report.

support local journalism