I asked her when we might see her lead the school district into Web 2.0 and start a school board blog. I paraphrase TJZ's response:
Oh, I don't know I don't know much about blogs or Twitter or any of that.
Five minutes, I say, and I can have you set up and blogging.
Well, the board would have to authorize something like that.
What, authorize a board member to express an opinion?
You know, we take an oath saying we'll work as a team. People call me and ask about issues, and I have to tell them, "Come to the board meeting." And then they never do.
Wait a minute. So if I want to find out what's coming up on the school board agenda or talk pros and cons with a board member, I can have that conversation once a month, during the public comment period at each official board meeting?
Let's review that oath:
[Madison Central Policy BBBB-E] Do you solemnly swear, or affirm, that you will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of South Dakota, and that you will faithfully and impartially perform your duties as a member of the school board of the Madison Central School District, Lake County, South Dakota, to the best of your ability, and in accordance with the laws now in effect and hereafter to be enacted, during your continuance in said office, and until your successor is elected and qualified?
And do you further swear to:
- Observe and enforce state laws and regulations pertaining to education.
- Accept office as a board member as a means of unselfish service.
- Transact school business only in regular sessions.
- Represent the entire community without fear or favor.
- Remember at all times that I am one of a team.
- Accept all board decisions once they are made and assist in carrying them out effectively.
- Delegate action to the chief school administrator as the board executive and to confine board action to policy making, planning and appraisal.
- Employ only competent, trained personnel and these only on the recommendation of the chief school administrator.
- Preserve the right and obligation of teachers to teach controversial issues fairly and without bias.
- Adhere to the School Board Member Code of Ethics.
- Govern the school in accordance with the school board adopted polices for the school district. (The answer is: “I do”.)
MCSD oath word count: 232. Presidential oath word count: 35.
Now help me out: which clause of that weighty vow supersedes the First Amendment? More specifically, which clause of that oath says that the board must authorize any public communication that a board member may issue relating to school matters?
For contrast, consider the city commission of Portland, Oregon. Here is a board like our school board, empowered to act only as a body, not as individuals. Yet the mayor and three of the four commission members maintain separate blogs to keep their constituents informed. They don't wait for a phone call and then say, "Come to the meeting." They actively push information online for anyone interested.
A school board blog would be a wonderful channel for information flowing in both directions: observations, opinions, and questions from board members and from citizens. And I see no policy clause that prohibits any school board member from opening a blog, saying "Here's what I think," and inviting fellow citizens to some healthy public online discourse.
...if they want to engage in such open conversation. If they believe regular public communication is part of their sworn duty to "unselfish service." If.