More than a year after proposing that Nashville adopt a mayor-appointed school board structure, current Board of Education Chair David Fox has suggested that the group consider adding local experts to board committees.
The idea, he has said, is to incorporate expertise from outside the board in such areas as large organization management, technology, and executive evaluation. Local industry professionals could serve on board committees including budget and finance and director evaluation, he said.
“The thought is, there are positives to having an elected school board,” Fox said. “One thing you don’t necessarily get is an intentional selection of various experiences. One way I think we can ram that out is through our committee system.”
Nashville is a city full of “incredible talents” the board could utilize, Fox said, and he said he personally knows individuals willing to contribute their time. Making use of this third-party input could be arranged at no cost to the board, and with no compromise of the board’s autonomy.
Given the structural changes currently taking place in the district — many of the board’s governance policies are being revamped, and Director of Schools Jesse Register is utilizing a workgroup structure to drive big reforms — Fox believes the time is ripe for considering other changes.
Prior to being elected chair of the board in the fall, Fox publicly stated that he was in favor of a mayor-appointed school board structure. As chair, Fox has said he sees his role as working within the existing board structure rather than advocating for a governance change. Adding industry expertise to board committees could bring about some of the benefits he was hoping to realize with a mayor-appointed board, Fox said.
“I think it does blend kind of the best of an appointed model with the best of an elected model, without diminishing the authority of the school board itself,” Fox said. “It’s a good opportunity for us to be inclusive of the community.”
Fox first raised the issue with the rest of the board on Tuesday, and will draft a written idea for a plan in time for discussion at the board’s next meeting, in two weeks. At the time of the proposal, there wasn’t much public comment on the suggestion from board members, though board members Ed Kindall and Gracie Porter raised initial concerns about responsibility.
“The board of education has the responsibility by law to manage … the general welfare of the school system,” Kindall said. “My experience is that you have to be very careful with how you charge [others].”