Let’s pink-slip the school board

While the San Francisco school board’s decision to end the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program is regrettable, it will have been worthwhile if it rouses us to begin the process of pink-slipping the whole board.

Poised to reinstate a racially divisive integration plan that has already been ruled unlawful, the partially lame-duck board should all be sent packing.

The school board botched relations with former superintendent Arlene Ackerman.

It has taken insufficient steps to remedy a school crisis in which 1,000 students per year are exiting the public schools.

The recent decision to dismantle the popular JROTC program should be a clear sign to San Franciscans that the board is out of touch with what is best for our students.

We should no longer tolerate the board’s incompetence or arrogance. Mayor Gavin Newsom should explore a mayoral school takeover that will go further than the one Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has initiated in Los Angeles.

It would be easy to be lulled into complacency and falsely believe that our new slate of elected officials will finally begin to do what is best for our students.

Such optimism is misplaced. Cities such as Boston, New York, and Chicago have recognized that mayoral-run school districts will, in the long run, function more efficiently than districts held captive to fractionalized school boards. Holding a mayor and his appointed representative, the school superintendent, responsible for education — arguably a public official’s most important task — insures accountability.

The biggest barrier to removing the school board is apathy. We live in a city that has the lowest school-age population of any major city in the country. White San Franciscans, while still a plurality in The City, comprise less than 10 percent of the children enrolled in our public schools.

The dearth of students, coupled with an exodus of established and well-to-do families from our public schools, leaves an unsophisticated underclass that is unlikely to challenge an entrenched board.

Until we recognize that our public schools are the foundation for our future, we are unlikely to do much.

Those who can afford to put their children into private schools or move to the suburbs have little stake in public schooling.

But unless we are willing to relegate all our public school students to a second-class education presided over and kept stagnant by a supercilious board, we must grab the educational reins.

Mark Twain wrote, “In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.” Fortunately, the Almighty didn’t decree that we needto be saddled with school boards forever.

Patrick Mattimore teaches at a college preparatory school in San Francisco and taught in public schools for 10 years.

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