How about an extra year for DISD trustees?

With many parents and teachers eager to blow up the entire DISD school board, word comes today in a DMN article that some board members not only aren’t eager to leave — they’re considering plans to extend their terms.

The board will consider a proposal Thursday to extend individual trustees’ terms from three years to four, giving Leigh Ann Ellis, Edwin Flores and Ron Price an extra year before facing election (currently, their terms end May 2009). The rationale is that a trustee new to the board could use an additional year to do the job more effectively. Ellis told the DMN it takes a couple of years to understand the district well enough to have an impact.

Predictably, the same people who are calling for board members to resign as a result of the budget problems aren’t in favor of the board extending members’ terms. From a practical standpoint, the proposal makes sense — a four-year term (already implemented in Austin and Houston) would provide more time to do the job right and, theoretically, more board continuity since terms would be staggered with four members up for election at one time and the remaining five up for election two years later — as opposed to electing three board members every year.

Unfortunately, from a PR standpoint, this proposal might be a little harder to defend, since it does give the appearance of board members extending their own terms, much like Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently lobbied for in New York (he said given the troubling economic times, it would be too risky for New Yorkers to have an untested mayor on the job; Bloomberg wanted to run again, but couldn’t because of term limits unless the city’s charter was changed, so it was). Personally, I don’t have a problem with the DISD proposal, but it probably would be better to carry out the May 2009 elections, as planned, and extend the terms of those elected then for four years, similarly adjusting the terms of the other trustees as they come up for election until the rotation is correct.

Also Thursday, the board will be hearing from Supt. Michael Hnojosa, who is scheduled to lay out a plan to make sure DISD doesn’t face another budget crisis anytime soon. Who knows? Maybe public interest in what’s going on in Washington will allow Hinojosa and DISD to get back on top of education here out of the limelight. Relatively.


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