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  • Writer's pictureRachel Langan

School Board: A Brief History

The topic for the remainder of the week is School Board 101: everything you ever wanted or needed to know about school boards in PA, and some things you probably didn’t want to know, but we’re going tell you anyway.

Do you think it’s possible that our school district administration has hand-picked school board candidates in the past? How would this be accomplished and what would be the motive for doing so?

Let’s dive in!

Consider this podcast with our former superintendent, Jim Scanlon. Starting around minute 23:25, Dr. Scanlon (superintendent from 2009-2021) talks about how he put together community focus groups, and that members of those groups went on to serve on the school board. He notes that those new board members transitioned smoothly to the board, and that were well-versed in what to expect, precisely because they had previously served as part of a community focus group.

Did Dr. Scanlon just admit to utilizing community groups to identify future board members?

Later in the podcast (minute 29:00-30:00), Dr. Scanlon talks about the importance of engaging stakeholders in “community conversations” and community focus groups. What could be the purpose of spending weeks/months engaging stakeholders? Is it possible that our school district administration fosters committees/conversations with the intention of identifying those who align with the district’s mission so that those members can later be groomed for seats on the school board?

Why would the district want to amplify the voices of certain community members over others? Identifying those who align with district initiatives, and then quietly endorsing those community members to run for the board creates an echo chamber for the district administration. This allows the superintendent to stack the deck with people who won’t question initiatives put forth by the district-- which results in the superintendent governing the board--rather than the board governing the superintendent.

Which is why Back to Basics exists: because we believe that voters—rather than the school district administration—should be choosing who gets to run for the school board.

Check back tomorrow for some Friday Facts on our school board.

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