BY JAMES WERNICKE
When considering a school board that is particularly challenged with being overly risk averse and prone to groupthink, an ideal candidate would likely be one who is not only capable of asserting strong, well-informed stances but also open to challenging existing norms and fostering a culture of open dialogue and constructive dissent. Lauren Coupland, Sean Stanfield, and Chris Bernstein each bring their own set of skills and perspectives to the table, each addressing different facets of school board leadership.
Lauren Coupland presents a strong argument for equity, inclusivity, and a shift toward more transparent communication and dealings within the school board. Their experience on the Equity Council and active involvement in addressing discrimination suggest she is well-informed when it comes to diversity and equity issues within schools. A concern is that their active involvement and advocacy might indicate a strong, unwavering belief which could hinder her ability to consider other perspectives and collaborate.
Sean Stanfield leans on his extensive involvement with extra-curricular activities and professional experience in team-building and organizational management to position himself as a suitable candidate. His points about accountability, transparency, and ethics hint at a leader who understands effective administration. His straightforward and traditional stance focusing on basic education and not being a politician might suggest a more conservative approach that may not invoke the necessary force to move a school district at rest.
Chris Bernstein emphasizes her experience and continuous learning as a board member, focusing on data-driven decision-making and acknowledging and addressing disparities and issues directly. One of her concerns is to make the lease or sale of school property impactful for the students and the district. Bernstein is seen through the lens of a citizen’s critical viewpoint in another letter. While acknowledged as kind and caring, the criticism leans heavily on a perceived passive leadership style, potential conflict of interest issues, and an alleged lack of transparency during her tenure. This criticism might represent one side of the story while her actions might be justified from another perspective. Without a compelling reason to re-elect an incumbent, affording another member of the community the opportunity to lead can infuse fresh and innovative ideas where stagnation prevails.
Coupland appears to be more activist in her approach, engaging with various community members and students, and advocating strongly for particular change, which can be critical in challenging a status quo. However, the potential pitfall might lie in ensuring that her strong advocacy for specific issues doesn’t unintentionally accelerate us into a different kind of groupthink.
Stanfield seems to embody a practical, managerial type of leadership and appears more moderate. His potential strength might lie in bridging gaps and facilitating dialogue among different stakeholder groups, though it’s crucial to evaluate whether his more conservative approach might inadvertently sustain an environment that prioritizes self-preservation above student outcomes.
In an environment stifled by risk aversion and groupthink, it might be vital to introduce a voice that is not only willing to emphatically champion change like Coupland but also able to pragmatically manage diverse stakeholder relationships effectively like Stanfield. A blend of the assertive advocacy seen in Coupland, with the managerial and relational know-how of Stanfield, would theoretically make for an ideal board member. Thus, choosing the “best” candidate might come down to which aspect – the advocacy or the managerial – is perceived as more urgently needed to counterbalance existing board dynamics.