Just one mistake? No, in my short time as board member, I can think of several that I made. I’m comforted by little else than the knowledge that in nearly every instance, these mistakes came as a result of either mis-information or lack of information, but I didn’t know it ’til after the fact. School board members do have a tough time. While I’m VERY critical of the various philosophies of certain board members, I did have one thing in common with fellow board members who all suffered as I did… I now call it “The Mushroom Effect”.
What the heck is the “Mushroom Effect”. First introduced to the term by a teacher who himself had heard the term from another teacher as far back as the 1980′s (so it’s been going on for some time now). It goes like this… speaking of how district administration handles school board members… “They are ‘kept in the dark and fed a bunch of crap.’” And so it is!
When first campaiging in 2010 for a seat on the school board, I solicited opinion from the board members who were not running for re-election and asked several questions. One question I asked, “what is the single biggest challenge.” Answer, “It’s often hard to make a decision when the information from the district is so far different than the information received from other sources.” What was being described at that time, but I didn’t appreciate it yet was… “The Mushroom Effect”.
I’m grateful to Mr. Beaman Story, my 8th grade Arizona History teacher who worked in GPS ’til the day he died. He shared then with a few, what I hope to share now with many, many more. Is it malicious intent on the part of the district? No, perhaps not all the time. But I can tell you with undeniable certainty that at certain times, top district officials “circle the wagons to get their story straight” and deliberately seek to mislead board members either by leaving out important facts, or burying them in mountains of info on other matters. Everythings runs so much smoother if you don’t give board members enough information to begin asking questions. Cultivate board members who are willing to smile for the camera and represent the district in the best light… even support board members who currently work in education, whose resumè benefits from being a board member in one of the most prestigious districts in the state… give those members The Mushroom treatment and the effect pays off.
Understanding this issue should help the public make the hard decisions for who to support this election cycle. I can tell you that I was highly criticized in open meeting and in private for asking questions. ”You’re making the meeting run too long!!” “You should have these questions asked before the meeting by the administration!!!” “Someone hasn’t done their homework!!” Too many times board members are labeled as calous and uncaring.. or aloof. Fact of the matter is… a lot of the time they are ignorant. This is why it’s so darn crucial to champion the cause of full transparency and disclosure. Many board members have paid lip service to it in the past. But for some reason, few are willing to champion the cause and demand it at all times.
Stay tuned for the next episode of “Corruption at the highest levels” as we disclose specific actions by select members of the district administration with regards to this very point and how I made one of the worst decisions ever!! Buckle up for a bumpy ride!!!