Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 14, 2012

Another View: Board should be accountable

By the The Flint Journal

---- — The latest Genesee Intermediate School District scandal brings to light once again a board that is too sheltered and removed from public accountability.

Instead of election by the people, board members are elected by school district representatives from around the county to six-year terms.

Sort of an election, once removed.

Because of that process, we are frustrated there is no easy way to hold the GISD board accountable for the lack of oversight that contributed to the alleged long-term abuse of money and power by the former top administrator of the GISD and the assistant superintendent.

There should be checks and balances with all levels of government, but right now, this time, the people are powerless.

A structural change is needed to provide for accountability.

We wouldn't be so concerned if we haven't been down this road before, but a similar scandal occurred in 2003, when a Flint Journal investigation uncovered GISD superintendent and board member travel expenses totaling $262,000 over 4½ years.

And some of the current players were around for that debacle as well.

How many times do we have to see public outrage before we realize there is no accountability by this government body to that public?

Yes, the GISD board recently fired an assistant superintendent after an auditors' investigation showed she misused more than $87,000 in school funds and equipment.

But the problems go deeper.

This was a blatant and over-the-top situation that had allegedly been going on for a long time without any correction until a new superintendent took over at the GISD.

The GISD provides an important leadership and administrative assistance for improving education in the county, but any misuse of funds and defiance of the spirit of their position undermines the rest of their legitimate efforts.

Because local school board representatives elect them, action from the local school boards are required to recall GISD board members.

We are challenged to think of another situation in which elected officials have such layers of protection between them and the people they serve.

It's offensive that we can't directly vote for the GISD board, or remove them just as democratically.

ISDs spend the public's money. They are serving the public.

They need to be accountable directly to the public.

The Flint Journal