Transitional School Board: Let's Wait And See
I really am torn on the issue of the transitional school board overseeing St. Louis Public Schools.
They're meeting right now for the first time -- officially. But their taking power has been a fait accompli for a while, so something tells me this board has been in the works for a few weeks now. But given the lawsuit and everything else going on, the political leaders of our city decided to wait until the last minute to make the announcements. You'll notice the St. Louis American had the story ready to go to press on Thursday morning, before Mayor Slay and President Reed held their press conferences.
And really, they could have done worse. While non-City resident Blunt appointee Rick Sullivan has the top position on the three-member panel, the other two members -- Mayor Slay's appointee Melanie Adams, and Lewis Reed's appointee Richard Gaines -- are City residents with some experience in education and some knowledge of how SLPS works.
Interestingly, both are African-American professionals residing in South St. Louis (Shaw and Compton Heights, respectively). They are active in the Black Leadership Roundtable, like several past school board members: Jim Buford, Darnetta Clinkscale, and Hattie and Ron Jackson. Of course, Richard Gaines, a long-time local insurance and securities broker, was also on the school board himself during most of the 1980s, when controversial Dr. Jerome B. Jones, the SLPS' first African-American superintendent, was in charge.
I am cautious and skeptical, but willing to give them a chance. I think it's smart to keep Dr. Diana Bourisaw in place as superintendent, rather than putting another new chief in the same position as Bourisaw was last summer: scrambling to get ready for a new school year.
At the same time, I hope the transitional board realizes that it is not an elected body. There is understandably a lot of skepticism from the elected school board members, teachers, students, and the community as a whole about this new board.
While the board is different from our already state-run Police Board and Election Board because only one of the three members is appointed by the Governor, it still feels very much like a state takeover of yet another major City institution.