Being the parent, at the time, of a first-grader, one of my big concerns was schools -- particularly Greencastle Community Schools, which was where my son would be a student.
For the most part, I've been duly impressed with the services the district provides. My son has some learning issues, and the staffs at Deer Meadow and now Tzouanakis have seemed to have real interests in making sure he does well. He has flourished because of the loving care of the teachers and counselors in those buildings.
The thing I found strange about Greencastle Schools, and the thing that still blows my mind just a little, is that the school board is appointed.
In my entire journalistic career, I had never worked with an appointed school board. Quite frankly, I had no idea they still existed.
In my estimation, a school board should be elected for one basic reason: an election will prompt people to take a greater interest in their schools.
And historically speaking, I think it's pretty safe to say that Americans have shown that they enjoy their rights to vote.
The members of the Greencastle Community School Corp. Board are chosen by the Greencastle Common Council, the Greencastle Township Trustee and the Madison Township Trustee.
I am sure the people who choose the school board members make their decisions based on merit and good information.
However, I think it's unrealistic to think that not even the slightest bit of hand-picking for non-personal reasons ever goes on. Let's face it: if you're on an elected board that appoints members of another board, your tendency is probably going to be to put people in place who share your opinions and interests.
That's not an accusation, that's just human nature.
I also think appointing representatives to such an important board is a lot to put on the plates of elected officials who already have many other responsibilities. I have to wonder if the school board appointments are given the attention they deserve, or if they get lost in the shuffle of other matters and become an afterthought.
Appointed boards have, whether they are deserved are not, certain preconceived notions attached to them.
When I think of an appointed board, I tend to think of a body that has been put in place by politicians for the purpose of obtaining or keeping power.
Maybe I sound na*ve, but I like to think the election process is the best defense against any political party gaining or keeping large amounts of power.
Very few things are all good or all bad, and I'll admit there is one very large advantage to an appointed school board -- if someone is not doing their job, he or she can be immediately fired.
I think we've been lucky in that none of the detrimental things that could have happened as a result of having an appointed school board have occurred. Many of the school board members have or have had children in the Greencastle schools, which I think is a good thing. The schools are about the children in them, and the people on the school boards, whether appointed or elected, should be advocates for those children.
The graduation rates and ISTEP results at Greencastle continue to improve, and that's a good thing.
I guess what I want to get across is that I have no problem with the board that is in place now, but I do have a problem with how they got there -- and just because things are going along fine at the moment doesn't mean they always will.
I believe having an appointed school board opens doors for potential problems.
I would be interested to know how other parents and educators feel about this issue, and would welcome comments. You can e-mail me at email@example.com.
Jamie Barrand is the editor of the Banner Graphic.