In terms of objectives achieved, I would stack the mediocre record of our city council against the sadly pathetic plodding’s of our well-meaning community-volunteer school board – any day of the week! This fact is unaffected by the city budget’s relatively puny size of around $190 million, compared to the school board’s greater-than quarter-billion dollar annual outlay. These are pennies-worth distinctions when placed beside the real legal and administrative differences between the two bodies’ workings.
Stated simply, I would sooner select the first seven names in the New Rochelle phonebook to the School Board than those of its present composition. Nothing personal! It’s just that no more haphazard system of member selection could be imagined as presently exists (tainted also by the effective control of a sort-of nomination process orchestrated by the general city-wide Democratic-machine).

There has been a considerable amount of research and publication on the relative merits of independent elected school boards and the city hall/mayor’s office alternative. According to Shael Polakow-Shuransky, Bank Street College of Education president:
People elected to school boards frequently do not have experience or expertise in making education policy, and turnover is often high, meaning that each election can result in major swings in board policies… Often those swings are in direct reaction to whatever the last superintendent or the current superintendent just implemented.”

For real-world examples of the changes being offered, one need look no further than west to Westchester’s largest city, Yonkers and south to the state’s largest, New York City. In 2002. state legislation delivered control of NYC schools from 32 elected local school boards to the mayor’s office where it has remained. By all accounts: enhanced school achievement scores (at initiation, improvements in testing scores of African-American and Spanish-speaking students’ scores ranged from one to three percent annually), improvements to curricula, reform/renovation of school design and administration (such as specialized high schools and creation of alternative types like the city’s over 200 charter schools), this was a rousing success. Patronage, corruption and duplication of effort were largely eliminated throughout the city’s 1700+ schools. It has been estimated that $1.6 billion is saved by the centralized, mayoral-controlled model. The greatest achievement is the accountability that has been delivered to the educational process, thanks to the direction of the NYC mayor’s office and city council.

Yonkers’ record, though not so dramatically affected, reflects real improvements as well. According to Sandra Tan, Buffalo News reporter writing in 2015:

{G}raduation rates have risen, but the mayor is fighting for even greater control over the district in light of financial mistakes by the past superintendent.

Quality hiring of staff remains a challenge in Yonkers, as has so obviously been the case in New Rochelle.

Clearly, as New Rochelle’s planning chief and Democratic political machine-run mayor’s office have embarked on a campaign of population growth, the city’s general administrative and specifically education-related management challenges have multiplied and increased in complexity. The present, unpaid, volunteer model has lost whatever efficacy and efficiencies it may have ever enjoyed and it appears to be the time for a new approach.

While the present political city council has shown itself to be “no bargain” in terms of deliberative quality or independence, it may offer the budgetary “chops” and seriousness of purpose that the school board lacks. And when contemplating the costs of local governance (nearly $900 thousand may be attributed to the city council and mayor presently) with so much paid to implement their heretofore rather paltry legislative output, why not give the body some real work to do? Such as the serious work of educating and guiding our youth and thereby contributing to the moral, intellectual and economic viability of our future society.

Perhaps the public will take this work more seriously, now that it is being done by a body that actually is paid to do governance. And with so much public money committed to the purpose, perhaps additional creative effort might be devoted to encourage the public to pay greater attention to the perfection of our young citizens – such as re-directing some of the money saved in increased efficiencies in the more professionally managed and governed school system into the serious business of promoting voter participation in the regular city hall elections (replacing a now-disbanded volunteer school board construct) through print advertising, cable/broadcast/streaming marketing, social media promotion and other modern means of popular involvement so that we might in the future see greater turnouts at budget and council election time, perhaps matching the 40 to 45 percent participation rates seen in many national contests and as recently as 40 to 50 years ago even in New Rochelle’s earlier political contests.
Such a change may require nothing more than a city charter change. Or we may seek advice and consent from our newly (and one would hope, temporarily) single-party Albany legislative contingent. The time is ripe for a dedicated search for the best way to rehabilitate and reform New Rochelle’s amply funded but primitively administered public education “Amateur Hour.”
Writing in the Claremont Review of Books in 2007, Harvard College professor Harvey Mansfield wrote:

[A] free constitution needs an institution responsive to circumstances, an executive able to be strong when necessary.

Today, with our shared city’s proud educational tradition in doubt, our children’s intellectual and moral development at risk (and for many of us) our most cherished private investment – the value of our home – in jeopardy, we need independent and energetic action from the chief local instrument of our political will: the New Rochelle city council and mayor’s office.

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Stephen I. Mayo is an attorney, owner of Mayo Linoleum Works LLC, host of The Steve Mayo Show on WVOX radio 1460 AM, Mondays from 6 to 7 PM and legal counsel to the Westchester County Tea Party. He is not embarrassed to be known as a Republican.