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Who Should Chair a Public-School Board?

It's impossible to know beforehand who will be an effective leader of a board of education. The qualities that make for success in one district do not necessarily make for success in another. But I think it's reasonable to demand relevant experience. That's why I question the choice of a home-schooling mother to head the Texas Board of Education ("A Texas Teaching Moment," The Wall Street Journal, Jul. 23).

I have great respect for parents who choose to home-school their children and manage to do a good job.  But it's one thing to turn out children who gain admission to even marquee-name colleges from home-schooling and quite another to provide leadership to a public-school district, let alone a state board of education.  If that were not true, then all highly effective classroom teachers would be highly effective principals and superintendents. In other words, instructional expertise does not necessarily guarantee administrative effectiveness.

The importance of relevant experience is dismissed by those who claim that running a board of education is no different than running a board of directors.  But comparing public schools and public corporations is absurd.  For example, the Los Angeles Unified School District is presently searching for a new superintendent ("What LAUSD needs in its next superintendent," Los Angeles Times, Jul. 23).  I wouldn't be at all surprised that at some time in the process the name of a prominent corporate CEO will be considered behind closed doors. Yet that would be a mistake. Whoever takes the job is quickly going to have to find a way to bring together diverse forces at a time when public schools face unprecedented criticism.

That's why I question the choice of Donna Bahorich. She is no doubt a superb home-schooling teacher, but what does that have to do with heading the Texas Board of Education?

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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