The Ethical School Board

By Lawernce Hardy

When dining with your superintendent at a four-star restaurant, do you charge the wine, whiskey, gin, and Irish coffee to your district?

When the subject of purchasing a new heating system arises in executive session, and the facilities manager mentions one for sale from another building -- a heating system that would be perfect for your business -- do you ask for a recess, leave the room, make an offer by phone, and outbid your own district?

When in the course of a heated discussion with a top district employee, do you douse her with a pitcher of water, just for emphasis?

If you answered yes to any of these questions ... well, we trust you didn't. But unfortunately, the above examples are all true. School board members have done all these things. They've wasted district funds for their own enjoyment, used inside information to their own benefit, and generally behaved the way they teach you not to in preschool.

Looking at cases like these, which we'll describe in more detail later, it's easy to think, "Hey, I'm ethical." (Sort of like watching Jerry Springer and concluding: You know, I've got a great marriage!) But the more common ethical issues school board members must contend with are far more subtle, complex, and ambiguous than those readily solved by consulting the Ten Commandments -- or the Seven Deadly Sins.

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