Like many of you I’m sure, our power went out Friday afternoon. Thankfully, it was restored overnight. We’re off to Rhode Island today so I wanted to post what I could from my interview with board chairman Steve Anderson. This one will be in Q&A format. Here’s seven minutes of our lengthy discussion:
On the personal attacks directed at him:
“I think it’s unfortunate when they make it personal because you sit there and you’re in a volunteer job. You’ve got a tremendous passion and you’ve got a lot of emotion for the educational process. I care deeply about my three kids’ education. I care deeply about the 9,000 kids that go to school with them. A lot of the personal stuff is stuff that is removed from the decision making. I don’t understand where that comes from.”
On having his leadership as chairman questioned:
“Half the time you’re getting criticized for being too much of a leader and squelching dissent, and then two second later you’re being told by people that you’re not leading enough because the board is not under control. It might mean that you’re actually kind of about in the right spot of equal opportunity criticism.
“Going forward I think I do need to be tougher in the leadership and really bring people on point and get away from a lot of the political grandstanding at board meetings that takes place. We’ve tended to get too minutia driven in a meeting and a lot of things like that really need to be taken care of outside of a meeting. Things that are not the big picture discussions that you want to have at a board level.”
On change and how it will be received:
“One of my goals between now and November when the new board comes on is to try and raise those conversations up. And to do that, like I said, probably means I need to become a little more uncivil as I argue for more civility. But tell people ’look, I’m going to be the bad guy.’
“I think [the community] wants to buy in because at the end of the day I think the community doesn’t want to feel they have to be this involved on the Board of Ed because the Board of Ed is doing what it’s supposed to do. Two years ago when I got elected chair I said my goal was to make us really boring and only talk about education, education, education. Well, we haven’t done that. We really need to get back to being boring.
On the November elections:
“You’ll have the two new Democrats coming on board assuming nobody petitions their way on. I know Jennifer (Dayton) and Adriana (Ospina). I think their hearts and their beliefs are 100 percent correctly aligned about education. I don’t know the detailed views of each but I think they’re people who really enjoy making the educational system better.
“On the Republican side, that’s still wide open. There are eight or nine possible candidates there and that will come out in July. What comes out of the caucus will say a lot about where the Republican Party is trying to go and what they’re trying to do.
“The board will definitely be different come November and then when that new board comes in that will be time to really get going on the superintendent search.”
On the “rubber stamp” accusations:
“I think that’s unfair. If you’re giving good guidance throughout the entire year to the superintendent and the cabinet, when the budget comes along there shouldn’t be any surprises because you’ve already directed the superintendent. The key is you want to be sitting there and articulating what you want to do and not just saying ‘well here’s problem ’X’ and I’m unhappy about it.’ Your role on the board is ‘here’s problem ’X', I think this might be a solution, what do you guys think?’ You need to come forth with the answers.
“When I first got on the board somebody told me that when you switch sides from the audience to behind the table the seats get softer but the decisions get harder. There are times when you just need to sit there and say ‘here’s a decision that I know is immediately going to make 40 percent of the people unhappy, but I think it’s the right decision for the schools.’ That gets back to make the decision and then get out and support that decision, push for it. Be a cheerleader for the public school system.
I’ll be back Monday with more. In the meantime, tomorrow’s Greenwich Time will feature an exclusive interview with departing schools chief Sidney Freund. The paper will also run an in-depth story on the much-talked-about emails sent to Freund from two board members.