The Education Action Network

Taking Back America By Taking Back Our Schools

I was incredulous when I first learned of Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools Donald Covey’s appointment process to fill school board vacancies. However, I never imagined that the constituents of our district might fall victim to his process.

Dr. Covey relied solely upon education special interest groups, giving no voice to taxpayers or parents in either the creation or implementation of his process. The procedure requires a “Collaboration Team” - board president, district superintendent, union president - mandating a “consensus decision-making process.” It states he requires a “consensus statement” and only three nominees for inclusion in a mandatory “nominee seminar” from the collaboration team.

The board president has NO authority unless granted by the board. The president was a candidate in this election and her top nominee was her de-facto, defeated running mate. She should have recused herself from the process to avoid the appearance of impropriety and cronyism.

The superintendent reports directly to the board and the union president is an employee who works for the superintendent. It is unlikely that a superintendent would risk alienating a board president or potential board member by advocating for the “wrong” applicant regardless of qualifications. The union president is unlikely to support any applicant who will advocate for the taxpayers.

The board tried to make the process more transparent and accountable to the community through public discussion of the applicants. In his letter rejecting the nominees Dr. Covey deems the efforts of the three individuals he cites as the “key stakeholders” were “manipulated” by this open, public process. An elected office, whatever the level of government, belongs to the citizenry. The voters and the parents ARE the key stakeholders.

Dr. Covey’s office threatened the PUSD community with a vacant seat for two years if his procedure was not strictly followed. This outlandish threat was in clear violation of his legal authority (ARS 15.302(A) (3)) - appoint a member OR call a special election. Fortunately Dr. Covey has now called for a special election so the voters can chose their representative.

I agree that an appropriate appointment process is less costly and time consuming. However Dr. Covey’s process conveys authority which is not his to give; panders to special interest groups; makes demands of nominees that are not requirements of candidates for the same office; fails to give all applicants an equal opportunity for consideration by the statutory appointing authority.

The Legislature vested the Counties’ Superintendents of Schools with the authority to appoint so the process would rise above local politics. Yet Dr. Covey set up a process that flies in the face of legislative intent. Regardless of the outcome in PUSD Maricopa County constituents should demand an appointment process that represents their interests, not one illegally empowering individuals and pandering to special interest groups.

Diane Douglas

Governing Board Member

Peoria Unified School District #11

January 7, 2011

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