Local education researcher, journalist and provocateur George Scott has pulled together what he's calling a Shadow School Board that will examine what Katy ISD is doing on a continuing basis and in the process develop a primer on how anyone can examine (challenge) the activities of his or her local school board.
To do that, he's begun a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of raising $13,000 to pay for the shadow board's work — continuous public information requests on student academic performance, employee accountability and other matters — and the published reports he'll be presenting online.
KISD has been a focus for Scott for several years since he moved there and began questioning some of the decisions of the district. His George Scott Reports was a regulation examination of what the district has been doing.
He says he knows that some people outside the Katy district will have trouble understanding why they should care about his enterprise. "We are going to focus on Katy ISD because every problem that exists in public education exists in Katy ISD including the deterioration of the quality of the school board. By giving Katy ISD a targeted “accountability-autopsy” of sorts, we will endeavor to create the beginning of a statewide reform effort."
Here's part of his explanation of what he's decided to expand his efforts:
Throughout Texas, parents and taxpayers have come to understand that something has gone terribly wrong in public education accountability.
The worst of the problems have been created because of the dishonesty of the accountability testing movement in Texas. For all kinds of reasons the Shadow School Board project will document that the State of Texas and the Texas Education Agency have spent the last 26 years since the development of the TAAS testing program (through today's STAAR test) grossly misrepresenting what Texas students' true academic skills are relative to actual grade level.
During this time, the growth of the unmitigated power of educational administrators and powerful vested interests in the private sector that have reaped billions of cumulative dollars from the system have overwhelmed the historical and traditional role of Texas school boards in representing the interests of students, parents and taxpayers.
Today's local school board is a shell of what it once was. In pursuit of one of those classic and goofy educational mantras - "A Team of 8" - the institution has dramatically changed its priorities to become a protector of its administration and a defender of our unacceptable status quo.
My Shadow School Board will try to explain what has happened; why it is has happened; and give extremely practical advice and detailed, how-to guidance showing parents, taxpayers, and would-be reformers specific steps they can take in their communities.
The Houston Press has known George Scott for a long time. We're not telling you to contribute money to him. All we can say is we've found him to be a dedicated and accurate researcher and devoted to education coverage, who has helped us out more times than we can count.
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He's known to rarely mince words, so here's some more from him, when we asked him more about his project:
"There is a staggering lack of institutional courage in today's modern school board. It's not that school board members are bad people on a personal level. They have allowed themselves to become convinced that state law denies them the authority they need to hold administrations accountable. Unfortunately, too many members of school boards are too intellectually lazy or have become over-impressed with their community status as elected leaders that they have surrendered their actual power at the altar of collegiality and teamwork with the very professionals they are supposed to hold accountable. And because they don't enough about data driven issues they are generally incapable of navigating the fine line between administrative meddling and administrative accountability without screwing up.
"At its heart and soul, my Shadow School Board project is going to explain to community activists and parents the ABC's of restoring operational credibility to the institution of the school board," Scott said.
If you'd like to contribute, check Scott out online. He has 30 days to raise the money. And good luck to him, and hey, to Katy ISD as well.