Campaigns are underway for Board of Education seats in ten local districts, and election day will be Tuesday, April 3. The KC Education Enterprise is asking each candidate to respond to a list of questions that may help voters decide how to cast their ballots.
Arthur Benson, who is running for re-election to the Kansas City, Missouri School District Board of Education, responded:
1. What skills and experience would you bring to a position on your local Board of Education?
Experience of more than 40 years dealing with the School District on behalf of students, teachers, and patrons.
I wrote the mission/vision statements, primarily, and have some investment in making them become reality for our students.
Some expertise in teaching and learning.
Institutional knowledge, sometimes useful, that often exceeds that of district administrators.
Legal training and experience, permits me, e.g., to serve as the Board’s Administrative Hearing Officer, at no cost to the District.
Institutionalizing the Board governance policies adopted during the last term, so that sufficient experience with policy governance, by board members, the administration, and the public ingrains policy governance into a permanent institutional feature of the school board.
2. Are you – or have you been – a parent or grandparent of a child in public schools?
Yes, our daughter attended KCMSD schools and now at age 23 is still fluent in French, thanks to her years at Longan.
3. In what school or district activities have you been involved?
I have been deeply involved in the full range of District issues since 1971, mostly trying to cause systemic transformation of teaching and learning from positions outside the District.
4. How frequently do you attend board meetings, and how long have you been attending meetings?
I have attended hundreds of meetings, mostly between 1979 and 2002, and then since 2008 I have attended every board meeting but two.
5. What do you see as the board’s roles and responsibilities?
(1) To set policies, especially to adopt the policies most likely to guide the district’s administration to profound or radical transformation of teaching and learning that results in high achievement for all students, and then
(2) To monitor the Superintendent’s implementation of those policies and take appropriate action as needed, within the constraints of good policy governance.
6. What is the role of the superintendent?
To implement effectively the policies of the School District as adopted by the Board.
7. Can you – or should you – support a board decision you do not favor?
Yes. The School Board may only speak as a Board. Once the Board has adopted a particular policy, it is the duty of Board members to support its implementation, even if she/he voted against the policy, but that board member may also work within the board to modify or repeal policies the board member did not vote for or agree with.
8. What are the some of the challenges currently facing your district?
Maintaining democracy, by keeping governance by an elected school board; monitoring the implementation across-the-board of our Policy 4.9 on effective teaching to the end that there is an effective teacher – as we define one – in every classroom, in a school in which the principal supports effective teaching (this is our most important challenge); creating more specialized schools that address particular curricula that benefit our students and attract more students back from charter and private schools.
9. What are some of the district’s strengths and weaknesses?
The biggest weakness is that by-and-large, the community does not support the District. The most important strength is that, after too many years of failure, the District, by its formal policies and its community-written and State-endorsed Transformation Plan is finally on the only path that, by experience and research, is likely to lead to real improvements in learning by all children, not matter what their background.
10. What do you think is the most important thing board members can do to support children who attend school in the district?
That is easy: see that the Superintendent presides over the fullest and quickest implementation of the Transformation Plan that is possible.
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