Last night (Monday, November 14) my growing respect and appreciation of fellow Katy I.S.D. School Board member Charles Griffin grew even more.
Last night’s school board meeting at which the discussion of an individual board member’s right and duty to speak to the news media on policy matters involving public education was not completely pleasant but it was completely necessary.
For too long, successive school boards in Katy I.S.D. have tried and essentially succeeded to limit or shut down contrary views of matters involving public education. There are two D words involved here:
- Disagreement – not always pleasant to watch
- Democracy – completely necessary to tolerate
Far too long in this community, particularly with the guidance of the previous superintendent’s arrogance, the compulsion of school boards is that there is one voice. And there is: FOR THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OR THE SCHOOL BOARD AS ENTITIES. However, the notion that elected public officials should not communicate with the news media – THUS THE PUBLIC – without filtering it through the Board president has never been good public policy and it never will be.
This community has Charles Griffin to thank for taking the leadership role in seeing that the topic of free speech was placed on the agenda for full public airing. I supported this too; but, it was Charles that really made it happen.
Maybe the community at large does not know this but Charles is a military hero. It does not surprise me that he had the courage knowing in advance on this issue that he would likely be subjected to taunts of hypocrisy because he has been a member of the board during which time this policy has been essentially imposed by board culture and a decade or more of ‘tradition’ and expectation.
Predictable as sunrise and sunset, Charles was subject to what he knew was coming from other board members. There was an effort by some to personalize to Charles a philosophical and practical and meaningful issue of elected public officials having the unfettered freedom absent intimidation to speak on public issues at their discretion.
Charles did not waiver. Here’s what I want to tell you about Charles that I have learned in the past almost six months.
- Singularly, he has been the most receptive and openly supportive member of the board since my becoming a member to my efforts to improve the caliber of questions that are addressed at the board table on a range of issues.
- Singularly, he has been the only member of the board to express a direct interest including questions on the matters involving academic accountability that I have raised in public several times and that are so important as to why I want to be on the board. As I pointed out Monday, I have been on the board for six months of meetings now, and the board has had less than 1 total hour of discussion on a range of academic accountability issues. I believe Charles is going to help the community change that situation as well.
- Like many reformers who supported my positions in the past and my effort to become a member of the school board, I too had questions of Charles in the past on policy matters, particularly the new football stadium complex. What I have learned is that Charles is an honest-to-the-core individual. I have seen his viewpoint about board service evolve as mine has over the past six months. My respect for him has grown immensely, and I don’t care if I do or will in the future disagree with him on certain issues.
Some may take this as an ‘attack’ on other members of the school board. It is not really that. I am speaking out to praise the leadership of a person I believe was unfairly targeted when the real discussion was not about individuals but about issues and free speech and good governance.
Let me make these points about the other board members and my relationship with them:
- On a personal level, I actually like them.
It was a very tough discussion last night. It’s captured on video. I made a point to the large audience that was there primarily for a discussion about the attendance boundaries that they should not be critical or ashamed of a board openly having disagreements who were not throwing pitchforks at each other. They should be proud of open government which is not always pretty.
It is hard for me to overstate how important and valuable that meeting was last night. It stayed in the main lanes – tough, but on the road.
And despite whatever divisions in approach were revealed to the public last night by members of the school board, they were revealed in the sunshine. I sincerely believe this although I am saying it as an individual and not representing the board. It is my belief that we have a strong consensus that our new Supt. Dr. Lance Hindt is the best thing to happen to Katy I.S.D. in 20 years or more.
Public catharsis is not a bad thing. Now, let’s get over it and move forward.