As an Arlington School Board member for 12 years — two as president — I was deeply disappointed to learn that Supt. Lynn Johnson had resigned. I had the opportunity work with six different superintendents at Arlington and Lynn is by far the best I’ve worked with. While we didn’t always agree, she always led with patience and principles and her loss will be deeply missed at APS.
School boards are not unique to other public boards in that they try to balance the need to provide good services, responsibility to taxpayers and to function effectively as a group. School boards are unique in that they have only three duties: Create and manage a budget, set policy and hire and evaluate their superintendent. Individual board members have no power themselves, only the power that comes from the board’s collective vote.
Effective boards adopt standards that govern not just what they do, but how they do it. Board disagreements about policy, procedures, personality and budgets is natural and even healthy! But shared vision, common goals and agreed upon guardrails protect and serve the greater good.
Where boards get into real trouble is when individual members have, or create, their own agenda(s) that blind them from honoring their service to their community and the organization they’re supposed to serve. In the case of a school board, when an individual member cares more about personal objectives than the education of your children, they typically accomplish neither. The effectiveness of the entire board, the superintendent, the district and ultimately the students suffer.
The truth is that Arlington is losing a dynamic, dedicated, experienced and respected leader in Supt. Johnson that will be very hard and very expensive to replace. The truth is that Lynn Johnson will go on to do wonderful things and influence the lives of many more students and many others — she just won’t be doing them for our district, our community and our students. The truth is that for 31 years, Lynn Johnson — by any objective standard — has done an amazing service for our school and our community. The truth is that we’re losing our superintendent because of the unfair, vindictive criticism of one board member and the unwillingness of other board members to enforce reasonable restraints on a board member that has an ax to grind.
While I appreciate the board members that tried to work through this, in the end the truth is that we as a community and as a school lost — and we lost big.
Before you vote for any school board candidate on Tuesday, I would encourage you to ask them 3 questions: What are your qualifications? What are your priorities? What is your agenda?
Anyone you trust with your vote, with an 8 million dollar budget and most importantly with the education of our kids had better be able to answer those clearly, honestly and convince you that they will put the interest of our community ahead of their own.