Feedback to the Mt. Tam Board
Hello fellow Mt. Tam community members,
I was in attendance last night at the Mt. Tam board meeting where Kate's embezzlement was discussed, as were many of you. I wrote the following letter to the board this morning. I think it is important all of our voices are heard in a cooperative, unified setting to hopefully prompt change to the composition of the board. It was clear to me at the end of the meeting, and likely to many of you as well, that the board was not really "hearing" what many of us were saying. Please read the letter below and if you agree with the general sentiment, please sign the petition.
I don't doubt that what I express below could be improved upon, that a proposal for 50% of the board stepping down might go too far to some and not far enough for others and that you might have your own thoughts to share with the board regarding possible reconstitution. The idea here is not to come up with the perfect solution. It is to make clear to the board that status quo is not OK. Given the tone and feel of last night's meeting combined with the letter from the board we received earlier this week, it is clear to me that unless we are unified in our discontent (even if not yet unified in our solution), changes will not be made. The moment in time is now. It is unfair to saddle Andrew Davis with a board not trusted by the parent community. It will affect every aspect of his job.
If you agree with the general tenor of the letter asking for board reconstitution, please sign the petition. Additionally, please add any additional thoughts and comments below as well. This will be shared with the board next week so they know there is not just one or two parents that are dismayed, but that a significant portion of the parent population would like to see changes. Without that groundswell demanding change, I believe that change in the near term is unlikely to happen.
Hello Trustees of Mt. Tam,
Thank you again, each and every one of you, for taking the time to talk to the community last night. I think we were all very grateful for your sharing more fully what happened with Kate.
As I said in the meeting, I am grateful for your securing Andrew Davis over the past couple of years. It is tough transitioning through to a new school leader and you have handled it admirably. My daughter, Grace, in the fifth grade could not be happier at school. At the end of the day, that matters most. I am also sorry given your amazing commitment to the school that you needed to bear the brunt of the community’s anger. Being a board member is always a thankless job. Last night took it to a new realm of downright unpleasant.
All that said, I must say that I was deeply disappointed that there was no real contrition on the part of the board. There wasn’t one moment where any board members apologized. I didn’t want to throw fuel on a fire in the public setting, but having sat on two school boards it is extraordinarily unusual, and lax, not to have conducted one audit over the past 10 years. You would be hard pressed to find a top tier school in the Bay Area who has not done so. Every non-profit I have sat on the board of - five total, two being schools - have always conducted a financial audit if not yearly, every other year. It is deeply disappointing that the board did not follow best practices.
I will also say that the perception among the school community is that you are “Kate’s” board, recent appointing practices aside. Perception matters. Indeed, perception is fueling much of the anger which was in evident display last night. You, unfortunately, end up being a proxy for Kate who isn’t there to take the heat (and many feel Kate is getting off easy). There is no way to undo that perception. It is a part of Kate’s legacy with which you are unfortunately saddled.
If you truly want the school to “move on” which you stated was the core reason you walked down the settlement path, I would humbly suggest an apology for it happening on your watch is in order. Even if you believe you did the best that you could, the fact is the embezzling happened while each of you were in office with fiduciary responsibility for the school. A bit of contrition on the part of the board and symbolic resignations would go a long way.
I will also say that I one hundred percent agree the entire board should not step down. That would be extremely challenging for Andrew and detrimental to the school. But I think if 50% of the board stayed and 50% were new members it would go a long ways towards healing. Even better, it would be exceptionally cleansing if the school community had a one time chance to nominate and vote in new members (and then revert to the old nominating process). It would be an extraordinary opportunity to turn a horrid scandal into a real moment of growth for the school upending the long-standing and deep concern that parents don’t have a voice or a vote.
Without at least an apology and symbolic resignations (even if having the school community nominating/voting in new members isn’t something with which the board is comfortable), given the very clear tone of distrust you felt in the audience last night, I daresay we won’t be putting anything behind us anytime soon. That would be a shame for our children. And it would be a remarkably lost opportunity to handicap Andrew in such a way before he even begins.
School communities are a tricky business. I founded my own school in Boston so I know where of I speak. There is an emotional investment in the social fabric of the community by its community members that you rarely see. That level of trust and investment in some ways has to happen because parents have entrusted their children to you. There is nothing that matters to us more. But when that fabric is rent, the damage is deep. Kate is responsible for the rending, but you have the ability to help the healing.
I am sorry that job falls on your shoulders given that you have already done so much for the school in so many ways, but I humbly ask that you take this into consideration and put the interest of the school and our children ahead of your own interests. Help us heal and move on now rather than have doubts about the board, earned or not, linger through the start of Andrew’s tenure. He deserves better. And so do our kids.
Stacey Boyd (Mother of Grace Hamilton in 5th grade)