Sunday, August 18, 2013

No matter how you slice it, Hoover can’t close unless a future board closes it

I’m a bit late in commenting on this story (though, technically, it first appeared in the comments to this post):
School Board member Sarah Swisher posted on Facebook that the vote [on the long-term facilities plan] didn’t necessarily entail the closure of Hoover.

“I voted for the amendment and my intent is that a board just before or after the 2017-18 date will work with the Hoover community to determine Hoover’s destiny. … What I thought we were getting with the amendment was a delayed decision,” Swisher wrote.

[Superintendent Steve] Murley confirmed Tuesday night that his understanding of the facilities plan is that, regardless of the “no earlier than” language in the plan, Hoover is set to retire in the foreseeable future.
You can read Swisher’s full statement here.

I like Sarah Swisher, and I believe that she did see her vote as something short of actually closing Hoover (though it’s unclear whether other board members saw it that way). Moreover, her amendment did help Hoover families, by pushing any closure further off into the future, giving Hoover supporters more time to change the decision. If Swisher hadn’t offered the amendment, the board might have voted (though maybe by 4-3) to close Hoover much sooner.

In the end, though, I can’t get too excited over the exact wording of the resolution. Any particular school board serves for only two years; any “long-term plan” it settles on is ultimately just a suggestion to future boards. The resolution may be ambiguous, but there is no way to interpret the board’s vote that would enable the district to close Hoover without a further vote to do so by the next board (or one after that). Hoover can’t close unless (1) a future board designates a date for the closure, (2) a future board settles on a redistricting plan that excludes Hoover, and (3) a future board finds the money to build the new schools, which might require 60% public approval at a bond referendum. If Hoover closes, it will be because a future board acts to close it.

I suspect there are board candidates who would be happy to think that the Hoover decision has already been made and that the next board can just move on to other issues. But future boards aren’t bound by this board’s policies any more than Barack Obama is bound by George W. Bush’s.

The candidates we elect next month are going to have to decide whether it makes sense to close Hoover School. I hope that in the next three weeks, we’ll get a strong sense of where they stand on that question.


Julie VanDyke said...

Chris, I think you have already potentially negated your conclusion. The standing board instructed the standing superintendent to close Hoover no earlier than...and if we retain this superintendent, that is all he needs to be able to do it unless a current or future board actually decides to put it on an agenda and vote to instruct him otherwise.

Chris said...

Julie -- I hear you, but even under that interpretation, Hoover couldn't close until a future board redraws the lines to eliminate the Hoover attendance area.

The superintendent can't redraw the boundaries on his own, though he can certainly make recommendations of how to do it based on his interpretation of the long-term plan.

I do think it means we need board members who understand that the superintendent works for them, and not the other way around.