Is there any truth to the old adage is true: Absolute power corrupts - absolutely.
We think so especially since reading (and re-reading) the statements made by Neil Kinnon in the recent Boston Globe article, we have been both incensed and humored by his self-serving interest in defending the Boards refusal to set term limits out of necessity. Neil Kinnon stated that only ‘through a long-serving board that has full understanding of the charter’ can a Board of Trustees’ ‘remain true to the charter’. We take issue with his position and question if the Board has in fact stayed ‘true to the charter’. Further we believe that just as the President of our country is limited to term limits, so too should Board members.
As a side note on this matter, Neil Kinnon has stated that ‘the state Department of Education has repeatedly questioned the trustees’ long tenure’, yet he fails to mention that they have not simply questioned the Board but have issued directives regarding the setting of term limits. Also, as we have mentioned in earlier posts, other charter schools have had their charter renewal contingent upon the adoption and incorporation of term limits into their by-laws. It still befuddles and exasperates us as to why the same has not been required of MVRCS (up to this point we have not heard back from Associate Commissioner Wulfson who we have been communicating with).
The 22 Amendment to the US Constitution addresses the number of terms an individual may serve as President of the US. While Mr. Kinnon believes that continuity is the only manner in which the Board can stay true to the charter, we question how the knowledge, insight, experience required of the Board of Trustees’ of MVRCS can so severely outweigh that of the individuals elected as our President? We think not and just as with the restrictions placed upon our President, we believe they should be adopted for good reason and purpose. Neil Kinnon himself has proven this by his self-created dictatorship that has removed the components found within a democracy. Unfortunately just as the Founding Fathers of our country did not believe it necessary to incorporate term limits into the Constitution (it was an unspoken but agreed upon rule), neither did the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education when drafting the original laws and regulations that govern charter schools. It wasn’t until Roosevelt’s disregard for the unspoken and his attempts to ensure judicial support for his programs did it become required to incorporate term limits into the Constitution. The same situation has arisen in the current standoff between the Board of Trustees and the DESE, as we are sure that the individuals who drafted the laws and regulations at no time intended for a Board to become a monarchy corrupt with cronyism.
Neil Kinnon would like to have us believe that continuity on the part of the board members ensures that the Board remains true to the charter and has a ‘full understanding of the charter’ yet we can cite many examples of the Board (and specifically Neil Kinnon) not demonstrating this. Just this month at the last Board meeting Neil Kinnon informed the parents who were in attendance that he did not have to hold the meetings open to the public. Additionally, the Board has been cited by the DESE for convening in Executive sessions to discuss matters not covered under the instances when it is permissible. As it currently stands, the school has no checks and balance in place to ensure laws are followed to not just the letter of the law but to the spirit of the laws as well. The Board and Administration have ignored the laws governing admission process of our school and numerous conflicts of issue laws. The laws governing the terms of our President promote democracy by preventing tyrannical rule, the forming of a dictatorship, and (hopefully), and so too should the laws that govern our charter school.
As the situation stands currently, Neil Kinnon and the Board have managed to practically eliminate parents from having any control, power, or recourse against them. Parents who challenge the Board or Administration too often find themselves or their being harassed or intimidated, often resulting in their departure from the school. It has become the norm that parents accept the actions and decisions of the board out of fear of retribution. Many parents have found attending Board meetings useless as Neil Kinnon is dismissive, demeaning, and controlling resulting in parents having limited, if any, say in matters. While many boards willingly publish their meeting minutes on their web site for all to see, at MVRCS obtaining copies of the meeting minutes is a daunting and exhaustive task.
In political terms, Neil Kinnon and the board have created what is commonly known as the ‘Lame Duck Status’, where they are not elected nor can they be removed therefore removing the motivation for them to be honest and responsive to the body of individuals they are supposed to be serving. As Jamelle Bouie has said “It’s just that long-term incumbency breeds this kind of corruption. Simply put, when you're isolated from credible challengers, you have no electoral incentive to stay clean.
Countries with fascist leaders do not intend or hope for their leader to be fascist, it occurs over a period of time as an individual is able to amass too much power and control over the individuals they were meant to serve. This is what has been allowed to happen at our school. Whether parents agree with our methods (this blog) or not, most would agree that it time for drastic change among the board. By adopting term limits for board members, MVRCS would be open to innovative ideas and promote progression that aligns with the charter governing our school.