Set aside, for a moment, what precisely the Mt. Lebanon School District could and should have done in connection with the "top 25" list, assuming that the School District acted swiftly and appropriately.
What does this episode tell us about the School *Board*?
Mt. Lebanon has a long tradition of encouraging its citizens to just trust the Board to do the right thing, which in turn has a long tradition of trusting the District administrators to do the right thing.
A year and a half ago, that legacy of "just trust us" blew up in the face of the District. Then-Superintendent Margery Sable, according to accounts that I heard, insisted on critically reviewing the work of her subordinates, instead of just going along with what she was told. That, among other things, brought her into conflict with the Board, and she walked out of town with a "separation agreement." And four members of the School Board that negotiated that deal, a Board that took the position that the citizens should just trust the Board in the matter of that agreement, either declined to run for reelection, or were defeated at the polls last year.
The four members of the School Board who were elected last Fall heard a clear message from the voters: We want a more active Board, and more transparency in School District decisions. "Just trust us" is a motto that the taxpayers of Mt. Lebanon should have heard for the last time.
So what's happening right now? The Superintendent who succeeded Margery Sable, George Wilson, sent home a "just trust us" letter summarizing the weak discipline handed to two students involved in "the list." Board president Joe Rodella declined to comment, because (I'm paraphrasing) "we trust the Superintendent"
I know that Board members have heard directly from parents whose children are involved in this mess. Aside from early comments by Mark Hart, they haven't been talking much. I hope that Board members start to speak out about what's happening here, and I also hope that the town learns a lesson in what to expect from elected leadership. Trust is *earned* through critical engagement. Managers make mistakes, and when they do, boards need to act, and they need to explain what they're doing and why.