Since my earliest days campaigning for the Mecklenburg County Board of Education election this November, I’ve met many, many people. Among the many things I’ve learned so far, is that it can be difficult catch their attention. The Board of Education is abstract and remote, the election six months away, and poorly defined, other than by highly contentious community gatherings years ago.
Even to those who firmly grasp the importance of the $1.3 billion enterprise that is the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System, many look to Raleigh and the General Assembly to fix problems,;particularly major funding issues, the school calendar, and Charter school oversight. It is true that the Board of Education has certain specifically enumerated duties, such as personnel decisions and school assignment boundaries. More generally, however, the Board of Education has a fiduciary oversight obligation to ensure the core mission of educating every child, and that every tax dollar is being wisely spent. There are significant areas within such jurisdiction where CMS can be improved, and thereby better serve the core mission. For example, the manner in which different departments report to each other and to the Board, and are held accountable for performance, financial and otherwise. This accountability can and should be more consistent with private-sector best practices for a similarly sized enterprise. As another example, the audit committee of the Mecklenburg County Board of Education currently meets only one time per year to receive the audit from auditors. It is difficult to see how that satisfies the Board’s fiduciary oversight responsibility. Finally, the Board of Education is critically important as the ultimate brand ambassador. Board members must lead the charge of driving community and business engagement with schools, and demand that CMS administration be ready to receive their goodwill.