Education Opinion

Paid Help

By Roslyn Johnson Smith, Ph.D. — March 06, 2008 2 min read
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Today, I had an interesting conversation with another Charter School Board President. He was encouraging me to consider hiring an educational management organization to take over some of the administrative tasks we have been doing to allow us more free time and the opportunity to be just Board members, not CEOs, Superintendents, or Human Resource Directors. He explained all of the services his group did for the Board and the easy load he had as President.

My friend said he felt empathy for me during our very public trials as we changed school leadership, hired special education staff, and handled serious building maintenance issues. All of these tribulations were played out in the newspaper and on television. Coincidentally, my next door neighbor asked me how things were going as I pulled into my driveway this afternoon. Before I could answer, he joked that he didn’t really want an answer because he was reading about me so frequently he already knew the answer.

In the past few months, I’ve discovered that even very intelligent people don’t always understand this charter school movement or why anyone in his or her right mind would get involved. Some people assume we do it for “the big bucks.” When I tell them that as a member of the Board, I have sworn to reject any and all payment for services or even a gift valued at more than $20.00, people shake their heads in wonderment. Until today (I finally activated the Board’s debit card), whenever I made a purchase for the school, I used my personal funds and waited for a reimbursement like everyone else. I never remember to compute mileage, even though I can be reimbursed for that also.

As a professional consultant, I get paid for writing school documents, grants, and proposals, the same type of work I do without charge for Mc 42. I work on our charter school activities almost every day, usually for a few hours at night. I answer emails and telephone calls about school business all during the day while working on other business unrelated to the school. It was very tempting to think of hiring someone else to do the work I do for our school and just pay them whatever the going rate is. Maybe we’ll do that next year, after we have more intimate knowledge of how this dog hunts. The price would be as high as $480,000. That’s what we are saving by doing the central office-type work ourselves.

When I started this work, I looked back at my previous years of experience and asked myself, “How hard can it be?” I had no idea. It’s a lot harder (as in more work) than I thought. But I have hope and reasons to believe that it is getting better every day.

The opinions expressed in Starting Over: A Post-Katrina Education are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.