Saner board governance would go a long way

Charter school oversight improvement efforts are underway this year, as your Feb. 15 editorial endorsed. But the elephant in the room that isn't being seriously addressed is the circular and inverted governance model of charter school boards.

Current law requires that boards be composed of a majority of the school's teachers. The Minnesota Association of Charter Schools has proposed giving schools flexibility in board composition to partly address this. But unless the law is changed to not only remove the requirement of teacher majority but also to prohibit it, there will continue to be a built-in conflict of interest and a tempting source of mismanagement and possibly fraud in school governance.

Charter school teachers are, by definition, at the forefront of innovative educational practices, and that is where they have focused their attention. Charter schools are designed to have these creative teachers and the parents control the academic program. But a charter school is also a business, and the business part is where most fail.

The pool of finance and management-savvy teachers is not adequate to supply the needs of this many businesses. All teacher-board members are beholden to the school directors for their careers and livelihood.

The governance structure does not support and ease their ability to confront and keep the school directors accountable, capable and ethical. Board training is a start, but this circular authority structure is still biased against a clear definition of management accountability.

Businesses have addressed this issue by usually requiring a majority of outside and independent directors on their boards. Director intimidation of teacher-board members is not hypothetical; I've seen it in action. I urge the reformers to look carefully when setting governance requirements to avoid building in barriers against proper checks and balances.



His misrepresentation of WMO taints him

George Will's Feb. 15 column referred to the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization reporting that "there has been no recorded global warming for more than a decade" (his words). That is quite an unequivocal statement and one would expect the WMO to have issued some kind of "global warming a hoax" report.

What is found on the WMO website is the announcement of the most recent climate change report for 2007 which states that "warming of the climate system is unequivocal." You can look it up.

Is there some reason anyone listens to George Will? Your opinion pages should contain informed and reasoned opinion, something above the level of talk at the corner bar. What we get from too many pundits is unsubstantiated serial assertion, and in this instance we also have either a deliberate falsehood or an incompetent reporter.



Move the bill this year, and alleviate some pain

I'd like to thank the sponsors of the medical marijuana bill for reintroducing this important legislation.

I followed its progress last session with interest and was cheered to see it finally win approval in the Senate. However, it was truly disappointing that it never received a vote by the full House. This crucial reform will provide peace of mind to some of the most vulnerable and suffering members of our community, and it should be law.

I implore all of our elected officials to make this the year that Minnesota finally protects our sick and dying neighbors from the threat of arrest simply for trying to alleviate their pain.



Archdiocesan icebergs sinking a vibrant parish

In his Feb. 15 column, " 'We're taking on water,' and new priest knows he can't walk on it," ' Jon Tevlin did a great job depicting a parish that the archdiocese has been drowning, inch by inch, over many years. Finally, it is sinking, and will be gone.

I was a teacher at St. Stephen's elementary school between 1974 and 1980, and continued as a parish member. I have witnessed the dying. The school and programs had "Titanic" leadership and were vibrant, and the issues were always based around social justice. This is where church needs to be, with social justice issues. However, the "icebergs" of the archbishop can only bombard the ship for so long, before the hits destroy the efforts, vision and purpose of a parish open to justice for all.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul floats on tradition, linked strongly to the Church of Rome, which has not graced itself with current issues, growth of time or love for peace and justice. It is stuck, unwilling to see human issues of compassion, and instead follows ancient laws, rules and regulations. Thus, the churches that reflect the real issues of today are buried at sea.



The archdiocese purposefully destroyed a wonderful, devout and loving church. Its actions were unChristian. St. Stephen's was home for so many people.