Huntsville school board: elected or appointed?

Huntsville’s own renaissance man Challen Stephens of  The Huntsville Times wrote “Huntsville school board: elected or appointed?”:

“I yearn for folks with a business background being able to get involved and make these hard decisions,” said Rep. Phil Williams, R-Toney, who is leading the call to do away with the little district elections. “I’m a bit frustrated we’re to this point.”

He said the city board’s failure to plan for anticipated state budget cuts now threatens the economic health of the whole area. Williams said he is speaking to lawmakers about a proposal to place board appointments in the hands of the city council.

…”I haven’t heard an outcry from the people for changing anything,” said Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison. “They’ve certainly got problems, but it didn’t happen over night … that’s why the people elected them. They’ve got to find a way forward.”

…Madison residents may apply to serve on the board. Each year the city council screens applicants, holds public interviews, and makes one appointment.

Madison Mayor Paul Finley said the system has worked “extremely well,” as voters hold council members accountable, while “apolitical” board members are freed from the competition between different parts of the city. “We’ve done redistricting four times in the last 11 years,” he said.

“There’s a lot of people who would not feel comfortable in an election process,” said Finley on Wednesday, “but they feel very comfortable in being appointed by a city council.”

The problems with the Huntsville Housing Authority should remind us of the dangers of unelected bureaucrats and appointed boards.

I like elections.  Political Science professor and TV hunk Dr. Jess Brown of Athens State does too (was I indoctrinated during his classes?), from his discussion this morning with the “most interesting man in Alabama” Dale Jackson on WVNN (AM770 / FM92.5).  While the HCS Superintendent’s job is technocratic, I’d be in favor of an elected Superintendent (like Madison County).

I also like partisanship.  I think that municipal offices (Mayor, Council, School Board) should be elected in partisan elections.  The benefits are: cost savings from not having a separate municipal election system, greater turnout, two shots at getting the best candidate (primary and general).

11 thoughts on “Huntsville school board: elected or appointed?

  1. Partisan elections for Mayor, Council, and School Board are the way to go. School Board positions should be at large, ignoring district boundaries, to ensure that the candidates elected represent the best interests of the entire school system. The last thing Huntsville needs is to have board members appointed by a non-partisan Mayor, pretending to be a conservative, and skillfully implementing the wishes of Big Spring Partners and the Committee of 100. Far better that those running for elected office declare their true party affiliations, rather than hiding under the cover of non-partisanship.

    • At-large elections might be better, but they would never get Justice Department approval, with or without the desegregation order. Even if the provision of the Voting Rights Act requiring Alabama to get pre-approval for election changes were not in place, it is almost certain that an at-large election scheme would be thrown out in court due to the fact that it would likely result in an all-white school board and city council.

  2. Elected or appointed what’s the difference? As long as the quality of a child’s education is determined by their zip code we are going to have the same results.

  3. Yes, elected. At-large school board elections are common in other cities. Whether we were able to switch to this system or must maintain current district elections, we should not surrender our right to elect our representatives. As previously mentioned, we can see exactly how well that works for citizens with the Huntsville Housing Authority board. Appointing unelected officials does not result in “freedom to do what is right for the whole city.” It instead fosters individuals with positions of power who become arrogant and willful in accomplishing their own purposes.
    Why would anyone propose that it is a benefit that appointed board members do not have to answer to voters? This is just another attempt to silence what is considered to be the ignorant masses. We do not need a small, ruling class in Huntsville.
    I also support the idea of changing over to partisan city elections. In addition to the excellent reasons already listed as support for such a change, there is one more. No pertinent information should be intentionally witheld from voters during a campaign. Non-partisan elections have been utilized for this exact purpose. Voters have been subjected to rhetoric which has been nothing more than an effort to mislead. Having an R, a D, or an I behind a candidates name tells me whether they are conservative or liberal. THAT is the primary question that most voters want answered.

    • O-I-C you want to put partisian idealogs in charge of our children’s education. I don’t care if an elected official is a R,D, conservative, or liberal. I want an elected official who will do the right thing and do right by all the people regardless of race, gender, sex, religion, party or idealogy. That’s what got us into this mess in the first place, and why we won’t get out unless we do some serious soul searching. A mind is a terrible thing to waste and a hard thing to change. Keep doing the same thing, you’ll keep getting the same results.

      • Rehdeye,

        “Keep doing the same thing, you’ll keep getting the same results.” – so how is your desire to keep schoolboard nonpartisan, not doing the same thing? If anything the other comments are wanting a change from what has been done, in order to get a new result.

      • What will having a partisian school board change? What will the new result be exactly? There is no right way to do the wrong thing.