I am hearing a bit of grumbling from up yonder in my former digs in the Texas Panhandle about whether the Amarillo Independent School District should appoint two school trustees.
The school board has two vacancies to fill. Trustees are likely to select two individuals to fill the seats formerly occupied by John Ben Blanchard and Renee McCown. The other option is to conduct a special election to fill those seats.
The AISD board comprises seven members. Right now it’s got just five. My feeling is that the school board is quite capable of interviewing/vetting applicants for the posts, then swear them in and allow them to serve until the next scheduled election.
It falls heavily on the board to find applicants who can serve the community well. So why not let the board of trustees — who’ve already been elected by their constituents — perform that responsibility?
They are aware of the complaints, I am sure. Some of the gripes concern the lack of Hispanic representation on the current board of trustees. That’s a critical element, given AISD’s heavy Hispanic student population among its 33,000 public school students.
I am absolutely convinced the school board can lobby throughout the community for qualified leaders from any of the district’s increasingly diverse ethnic population base.
Is it better to appoint or to elect board members? Well, elections are a more costly proposition than the appointive process. They also require some time for candidates to campaign for the office they are seeking, which would keep the seats vacant for what arguably is longer than is necessary.
So, study the applicants. Question them thoroughly.
Indeed, there’s no legal requirement that trustees these people privately. In the interest of full transparency, I think it’s absolutely reasonable to visit with them in public. Give constituents — the folks who pay the bills with their property taxes — the chance to hear these applicants’ answers to trustees’ questions.
The appointment process can be done with full public awareness and buy-in.
Have at it, Amarillo ISD trustees … and good luck.