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Dismissed! School board governance: A case study of the Halifax Regional School Board

Dissertation
Author: Carol-Anne Elizabeth Hutchinson
Abstract:
The Halifax Regional School Board 2004 - 2006 was stripped of authority to continue its responsibilities. The Nova Scotian provincial government was acting on a pattern established in other state and provincial jurisdictions in Canada and the United Sates. This was to dismiss school boards considered to be dysfunctional and have either the municipal unit (the mayor) or the centralized government take control, in the form of a Minister of Education or State Superintendent. This study examines the background of school board development, issues of democracy and representation, and the responsibility of the press. This qualitative study relied upon documents, interviews, secondary and primary sources. Historiography, ethnography, and survey work all figured prominently in gathering data results. Recommendations for future study include the influence of the press, examination of roles of key actors, and race as an issue in school board governance.

Table of Contents Title Page.............................................................................................................................i Acknowledgements............................................................................................................ii Dedication..........................................................................................................................iii Abstract..............................................................................................................................iv Table of Contents...............................................................................................................v Chapter One Introduction................................................................................................1 Conceptual framework ...............................................................................6 Purpose of Study …………………………………………………………8 Statement of Problem…………………………………………………….10 Questions....................................................................................................10 Chapter Two The Literature Review..............................................................................12 Background of Schooling in North America.............................................12 Origins of School Boards.......................................................................... 17 School Board Takeovers............................................................................22

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Elected vs. Appointed School Board Members... .................................... 30 Candidates for School Boards and Voter Turnout.................................... 33 Race............................................................................................................41 Dysfunction................................................................................................44 Democracy.................................................................................................47 The Social Contract...................................................................................52 Chapter Three Methodology.............................................................................................54 Philosophical Perspective......................................................................... 55 Case Study as a Method............................................................................59 Data Collection......................................................................................... 62 Case Analysis.............................................................................................71 Triangulation..............................................................................................71 Interviewees...............................................................................................72 Reliability...................................................................................................77 Credibility and trustworthiness..................................................................78 Bias............................................................................................................82

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Chapter Four Research Results: The Case Study...........................................................84 School Board Background.........................................................................85 Department of Education Officials………………………………………88 School Board Members 2004 - 2006………………………………….....90 The Story: Controversy and Convictions………………………………...91 Seating Plan..………………………………………………………….....97 Race………………………………………………………………… …...98 The Superintendent……………………………………………………..101 The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia and Court of Appeals......................103 Interviews.................................................................................................105 Interview synopsis……………………………………………………...108 Democracy compromised........................................................................115 The Social Contract............................................................................... 117 Amalgamation fallout..............................................................................122 Teacher survey……………………………………………………….…124

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Chapter Five Introduction.............................................................................................126 Summary of the Study.............................................................................126

Review of the methodology………………………………………………….131 Major Findings…………………………………………………………. 132 Findings related to the literature……………………………………….. 133 Conclusions …………………………………………………………….138 Implications for action.............................................................................138 Race......................................................................................................... 141 Recommendations for further research....................................................142 Concluding Remarks................................................................................145 Addendum: A Mad Tea Party................................................................147 Appendix A: Documents..........................................................................154 Appendix B: Consent Letter…………………………………………...155

Appendix C: Teacher Survey…………………………………………..156 Appendix D: Graph of Survey as Percentile…………………………...157 Appendix E: Chart of Interview Themes………………………………158 Appendix F: Conceptual Framework…………………………………..159 Appendix G: Glossary………………………………………………….160 References…………………………………………………………...... 160

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Chapter One

Introduction It was 1995 and the cry to amalgamate rang throughout the land. The Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) was created from the cities of Halifax and Dartmouth, the town of Bedford, and Halifax County. At this time, the Nova Scotia legislature was exploring the possibility of amalgamating the twenty-one school boards in the province into seven. This exploration on their part led to an act of the legislature which decreed said amalgamations. The amalgamations were made along geographical lines, except for the Francophone School Board which has students living in the jurisdictions of the other provincial school boards, and consequently has no set geography. In 1996, the school boards which existed within the new municipal unit of the HRM were The Halifax School Board, the Dartmouth School Board, and the Halifax County – Bedford District School Board. They were forged together to become the new Halifax Regional School Board. However, some blacksmiths are better than others. The problems created by amalgamation were many, and would take years to resolve. The Halifax Regional Municipality has a population of 350,000, which is approximately half the population of Nova Scotia. Therefore the Halifax Regional School Board is the largest of the seven Nova Scotia school districts. With 52,000 students, 137 schools, and a budget of $350 million (Minister, 2006) the Halifax Regional

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School Board has the most money and generates the most interest politically of all districts in the province. With amalgamation some of the unresolved issues dealt with varying curricula, assessments, programmes, and teacher assignments. Though the school boards amalgamated, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union locals had not. Teachers were left with different contracts and bargaining units. Though staff could transfer from one former board to another, they were obligated to remain with their union local of origin (Campbell, 2010). However, the biggest issues had to do with supplementary funding, local funding raised through municipal taxation by Halifax and Dartmouth cities, but not by Bedford and the County. This perpetuated an imbalance in the provision of programmes in the schools. This was not only a divisive issue for County school board members, but also for the actual Mayor and HRM council. Each former school board had their own school board members, but amalgamation established the number of the new board to be nine. Representation was cut by two-thirds. It was determined that school board elections would occur at the same time as municipal elections for the mayor and the region’s councilors. The new school board headquarters took over the old Dartmouth city hall, since the municipal government was now situated in Halifax in the old Halifax city hall. In October of 1996, the Halifax Regional School Board elected its first slate of school board members. The superintendent was the Acting Superintendent from the former Bedford-Halifax County, Dr. Don Trider. Dr. Trider worked diligently to create a smooth transition, but there were problems he could not overcome, such as the supplementary funding. He and his school board worked on integrating and forming policies for the new district. In 1999,

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David Reid was the new superintendent. He changed the school board’s structure, demanding loyalty and making examples of those who did not adhere to his vision. I recall one principal’s meeting where he stated three times that he expected us to salute the flag. There was considerable conflict between him and senior staff. School board members were uneasy. He suspended principals, interfered in meetings and demanded loyalty not earned. Carole Olsen was hired to begin duties as superintendent in 2002. After five years her contract was renewed to allow another five years of office. This renewal was made by the appointed board which in 2007 consisted of one person, Howard Windsor. Halifax Regional School Board is presently comprised of 9 Board members, one elected per electoral district, and one African Nova Scotian representative elected at large by entitled voters. Those who vote for the African Nova Scotian candidate do not vote also for the candidate in the area in which they live. To vote for the African Nova Scotian candidate a voter must simply self-identify at the polls. In the 2004 elections, Douglas Sparks was elected to this position. There was also another African Nova Scotian elected, representing the communityof Lake Echo/Porter’s Lake, and the Prestons. This was Bernadette Hamilton-Reid, whose race became a concern. Chin Yee, Chinese Nova Scotian, was the only other visible minority; however, he was representing an area in Dartmouth with little ethnic diversity. The following are the 2004 thirteen candidates who were sworn in as the Halifax Regional School Board members: Debra Barlow, Gary O’Hara, Kim Berkers, Bernadette Reid, Bridget Ann Boutilier, Douglas Sparks, Deborah Brunt, Grace Walker, Peggy

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Draper, Darren Watts, Lynn MacGregor, Gin Yee, and Wade Marshall (HRSB, 2004). These names are important to note. Remember them, as they surface again in the study. At their November 4, 2004 special meeting they chose Gary O’Hara as the chairperson and Bernadette Reid as vice-chair. In 2005 it became obvious that the board members were not able to reach consensus on many issues. Also, Ms. Reid was being investigated for a conflict of interest, and Peggy Draper was missing meetings. Often a quorum could not be reached in order for business to proceed. The chair, Wade Marshall, was mired in personal bankruptcy. Two definite groups emerged, each with their own agenda and forceful leadership. The superintendent, Carole Olsen, was too close to one of the groups. This group consisted of the chair, Watts, Walker, and Barlow (Kimber, 2006). When Bernadette Reid stepped down as vice-chair, Debra Barlow took over. Internal conflict erupted in January 12, 2006 when Darren Watts and Grace Walker had come up with a new seating plan. Mr. Sparks was being seated to the extreme end of the semi-circle of chairs. He refused to take his seat and there were harsh words and heated comments. The meeting did not continue and from that time forward the council chambers were not used for meetings. In February, Jamie Muir, the education minister at that time, scolded the school board members, reminding them of their responsibility to act professionally and adhere to new performance standards (CBC, 2006). As the school year continued, Peggy Draper was dismissed due to her poor attendance. Yet her problems extended into her personal life. She was charged with theft

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of over $300,000.00 and sentenced to two years in jail. The HRSB took Bernadette Reid to court on a conflict-of-interest charge. She had a business which sold African cultural items imported from Africa. She made sales to two schools, but kept the amounts under $1000.00 so that purchase orders would not be perused by the HRSB accounting. She claims that she did no wrong, and was requested to keep the amount lowered. Coincidentally one of the schools with which she did business was her husband’s. As principal he was being investigated for missing funds. This clearly was not Ms. Reid’s doing. In any case, she was removed from the Board by the Justice Department, having been previously in-serviced on conflict-of-interest. Another school board member, Wade Marshall, was also in some conflict, as he had served on the previous board as Chair. During that time he experienced personal bankruptcy, but did not declare this. The Nova Scotia Education Act requires that any school board chair reveal this situation, as it undermines the trust of the public and compromises competence. The ability of the Board to work together had been greatly compromised by the actions of the board members themselves. On December 19, 2006 the Minister of Education, Karen Casey, took control of the elected school board by an act of legislation, Section 64 of the Education Act. The Board members were immediately stripped of their authority, while Howard Windsor, a former deputy minister, was appointed to act as a one-person board (Minister, 2006). School board members continued to receive their annual $8200.00 stipend, however, Gin Yee would not accept his; he maintained that since he was not working, he did not require it to carry out any duties. This stipend was eliminated by Howard Windsor, the one-person board, in February, 2007. However, several of the dismissed

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board members believed that they had been unfairly removed from office. They launched a lawsuit against the Halifax Regional School Board. Legal maneuvers were nothing new for this board. Seven dismissed school board members filed suit against the Halifax Regional School Board in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia (Courts, 2007) seeking reinstatement as a functioning board. They claimed that since they were not part of any discipline, they ought to fulfill their term of office. “The applicants submit that no conduct of one or two individual Board members can cause the Minister to invoke the power she exercises under s.68 (2)” (Courts, 2007). The Honourable Justice M. Heather Robertson ruled against the plaintiff. A subsequent suit made in June, 2008 to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeals was also unsuccessful. Conceptual Framework The Halifax Regional School Board is one of several school boards in North America which has been “taken over”, “eliminated”, “dismissed”. Studying the events of the Halifax Regional School Board examines these “take-over” phenomena within the context of one school district. A case study enables me to explore an organization through complex political and social interventions, relationships of individuals, and specific events. In this instance, the case is complex, but specific, and functions within a particular place and time with a particular set of participants (Merriam, 1998, p. 18). The ‘hows’ and the ’whys’ of the case study will be answered. Because the case is a single entity, there are boundaries and constraints to which I adhered. This school board will be

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the unit of analysis. To go beyond the boundaries would be to render my data less valid. We know what happens when we water the wine. My approach to the case study is based upon a constructionist paradigm (Stake, 1995; Yin, 2003). It is part of my conceptual framework that truth is relative. Humans make meaning from their experiences and teachings, such that what is true may be different for different people. Subjective meaning does not negate the notion of objectivity (Baxter, 2008, p. 544). It is generally agreed in the world that the earth revolves around the sun. This is an accepted scientific reality; however, there are those individuals, who by virtue of their religious teachings do not believe the theory of evolution as scientific fact. Truth is relative to one’s perspective. Through the stories of the research participants, different views of reality are presented and I am better able to understand the motivation and behavior of the participants (Lather, 1992). As I use narrative to create a descriptive case study, the data collecting strategies are many. My primary source of data is interviews with the many actors involved. In addition to these semi-structured interviews (with member-checking), there are government documents, school board minutes, newspaper articles, and court records. The research of the literature yielded academic articles and other writings on the topic of school board ‘take-overs’. Reading books and passages about the history of education provided me with valuable data on the evolution of the school board. In this instance historiography contributes to the data, making it rich, indeed. Observation of the current Halifax Regional School Board meetings revealed the dynamics of the members and the senior administration. An observation journal was kept for this purpose. Observation became part of my reflexive journaling, which assisted in gathering rich data. An audit

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trail adds to the credibility and rigor of the study. As a final source of data, a theatre piece is presented in the conclusion of the study from which meaning surrounding an important school board event can be constructed (Goldstein, 2001).

Purpose of Study Topic and research purpose The topic of this research study is the dismissal in 2006 of the Halifax Regional School Board members, the examination of the process, and the consequences. School board governance is closely examined. The study aims to explore the history of school boards in North America to place history in context of today’s school board structures; the case study also explores issues of democracy and racism within the elected school board. The intent is to determine whether an elected school board is necessary and desirable for the delivery of sound school board governance. Significance This study is valuable in that the North American pattern of mayors and provincial/state legislatures disbanding school boards needs examination within the context of democratic principles, creating a context for participation and voter support. The study will show how personal and political agendas undermine effective governance. Insight will be offered to policy makers such that they will make decisions from a perspective of reason, rather than conflict. From this study, I expect to learn what strategies are best applied to school boards in crises, and to understand what has informed the status quo regarding school boards, more specifically, the Halifax Regional School Board.

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Delimitations Delimitations are those restrictions and/or boundaries that researchers must impose on the study to narrow the scope of a study (Mansor, 2008). The study of the Halifax Regional School Board is confined to that one school district during the specific dates of 2004 to 2006. These limitations restrict the scope of the study. These limitations have been set by me to ensure that the study maintains its focus. There are many issues within this case study, therefore by keeping the field specific; I can keep the data manageable, which builds trustworthiness. In order to deal with the historical background needed to lend comprehension to the evolution of the elected school board member, I have included this information in the case study methodology. It is the responsibility of the qualitative researcher to ensure that the study is understandable and contained. Topic and research purpose The topic of this research study is the exploration of the dismissal in 2006 of the Halifax Regional School Board members, the examination of the process, and the consequences. Issues of democracy and racism are of paramount importance. The study aims to explore the history of school boards in North America, issues of democracy, citizen apathy, and racism within the school board. The intent is to determine voter

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involvement, political interference, and determine the validity of the African-Nova Scotian seat.

Statement of the Problem The problem, as I see it, is the violation of democratic representation by the public. Citizens go to the electoral polls to choose school board members. This is done at the same time as the mayor and municipal councilors. However, for the state to dismiss these elected representatives undermines the trust of the citizens. It is also not the solution to dealing with internal school board conflict. The problem involves political power being used to deny school board representation to citizens. If the school district can function well without the school board, does this mean that elected candidates are not necessary, or does it mean that the voice of the people has been silenced?

Questions General research questions Does a school board need elected school board members? Can school board governance be successful without elected school board members? Is it a violation of democratic principle when a province or state or mayor dismisses an elected school board? Can conflict within a school board be addressed by means other than dismissal of all members? Should all members be dismissed when conflict appears to be with only a few members? What constitutes a “dysfunctional” school board?

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How can issues of racism be exposed and resolved? How does dismissal of elected school board members influence apathy by the citizenry? What is the power dynamic involved in school board governance?

Guiding questions 1. Is the dismissal of an elected school board the violation of the social contract? 2. Are elected school boards integral to the democratic process? 3. What role do elected school board members have in school board governance? 4. Who are the outliers? What impact do they have on the school board? There is general acceptance that power structures exist and that people try to become more powerful than others, in many ways. There can also be an abuse of power. When the public places trust in a school board and in its employees, there is a feeling of mistrust and abuse when those individuals who have been placed in .power, behave in ways that are considered to be morally and legally unacceptable. School board members develop loyalties to one another, forming coalitions which become voting blocks, increasing the power of the individuals. Power can work for the well-being of a school board, but loyalties and coalitions can break down when individuals exert their power for their own purposes. Often the outliers are excluded from the sphere of influence and action. That is their struggle.

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Chapter Two The Literature Review Background of Schooling in North American At the time of the settlement of North America, colonists brought with them what they knew from England and Europe. Education belonged to the wealthy, the aristocracy, and the clergy. American universities were founded in the 17 th century, basing their structure and curricula upon an English model: Harvard, founded 1636, and William and Mary, founded 1693, are examples of this development in the Thirteen Colonies (Thelin, 2004). Universite Laval, founded 1663 in Lower Canada (Quebec) is the oldest university in Canada, with standards based upon the rigorous demands of the Jesuits from France. Interestingly, higher education came first. Public education was only a concept with some enlightened academics and social reformers, who believed that education of the masses was a way to move from poverty to industry while maintaining a Christian lifestyle and culture. In the 1600’s Canada as a nation did not exist. There were two colonies, one governed by France and another governed by England. In the French regime of Acadie (now Quebec and large parts of New Brunswick which border on present day Quebec), learning was not formalized, but was part of everyday life. Families were the governing unit, and the Roman Catholic Church supported schooling. That is to say, religious private school developed as part of a parish. Catechism and other subjects were taught.

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Most children were taught to read and write by their parents if the parents had those skills. However, since the economy of the time was very labour intensive, children normally worked alongside their parents in the fields, on boats, and with cottage crafts, such as weaving and spinning. The field work and house work fell to the girls, while the boys farmed and cleared land. Male children were often apprenticed out around the age of 11 (Gaffield, 2010). The great majority of people were illiterate, but some children were able to attend the petits-ecoles established by the priests, most of who were dispatched from France to help ‘civilize’ the colony (Phillips, 1957, p. 84). From the beginning of education in the new colonies parents were involved directly or indirectly. There is nothing new in the practice of home schooling, except that was delivered by necessity, rather than choice. The 1600’s into the 1700’s saw a myriad of schools established within the two colonies: Parish schools, apprenticeship schools, charity schools, and private dame schools, common day schools, and Sunday schools. There were schools that only the poor attended, while children of the upper classes were taught at home, which had always been the practice of the wealthy (Philips, 1957, p. 41). Again, the practice of parents being involved with their children’s education has been established. The 1700’s made strides in settlement of the colonies especially with regard to industry and emigration. However, the invasions by Britain and France, rebellions of the Upper and Lower Canadians, and a cyclical economic development sidetracked the population from moving forward in matters of culture and education.

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While the Jesuits were establishing schools in New France, the Puritans had arrived in Massachusetts, and like all settlers from Europe, they attempted to emulate their country of origin by setting up schools with donations from wealthy benefactors. Harvard in 1636 was thus founded (Cohen, 1974, p. 43). However, this model from England did not continue to work for the colonists, as there was not an abundance of wealthy donors in New England in the 1600’s. The Puritans were very goal oriented in the establishment of religious colonies in the New World. Their belief in reading the Bible prompted them to seek education for their children, so that they would thrive in their beliefs. Conditions in Massachusetts were harsh and survival was an ever-present struggle. There was inadequate time for children to be taught by parents. In 1642, an education act was decreed by the governor of Massachusetts that parents could be fined if the children were not “being taught to read and understand the principles of religion” (Cohen, 1974, p. 44). Only a few years later in 1647 the “Old Deluder Law” (Cohen, 1974) was passed which ensured that in existing towns of at least 100 households or families a grammar school must be established for boys. The colony appointed a person of responsibility in each town to oversee the construction of the school and the hiring of a teacher. This was the beginning of the people governing their own school while responding to a centralized government. The Puritans were strict and disciplined, as was their approach toward schooling. Their zeal and demands allowed many schools to be opened, and where communities failed to do so, they were heavily fined. The central government could not build and supervise these schools. The distance and the geography made it impossible, so the reliance on the citizens in the communities

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was great (Bailyn, 1960). This form of governance allowed for school districts to develop with parents as the go-between. The Eastern seaboard of the Thirteen Colonies flourished with fishing, shipping, and agriculture. By 1712 in South Carolina there was considerable concern about education. Universities were being established in the North and South Carolina as their sons had to be prepared for careers in law and business. Each parish in South Carolina was funded 12 pounds to construct a school house and another 10 pounds for a teacher. (Cohen, 1974, p.127) Ten years later another act of the colony permitted certain county officials to buy land, build a school house, and most significantly to tax the people to support the schools. The foundation was being laid for school trustees. It took several more years for the South Carolinians to move away from the English concept of public school, which was a school were tuition was paid. It was not until the nineteenth century that Canada was formed as a nation (British North American Act of 1867), yet the settlers and recent immigrants were very much a part of the western European interest in educating the working class and the poor (Houston, 1991). Immigration helped fuel this attention to education, as most immigrants were from Great Britain and Europe, bringing the thinking of the era with them. “The importance of public schooling in the Ontario Society cannot be overestimated. The advent of publicly funded elementary– and later secondary – schooling has been ranked with the extension of the franchise as a milestone in the evolution of a modern democracy” (Houston, 1991, p. ix-x).

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In Houston and Prentice’s book, Schooling and Scholars in Nineteenth- Century Ontario, they discuss that in the town and also the rural communities that men and women were realizing the need for schooling in order to support their new economy. As parents they would make calculations of the returns from investment in their children’s education, and these parental concerns undoubtedly played a significant part in the emergence of public as well as private schooling. Yet these calculations might or might not coincide with those of the men and women who taught in the schools or ran the expanding public systems. (Houston, 1991, p. ix- x). The development of schools in Canada, of course, was not isolated. With shipping of goods and people across the Atlantic Ocean and to South America, the world had opened up to exploration, shipping, and intellectual pursuit in a way that previously had been unimaginable. Before the American Revolution of 1776, the 13 Colonies were closely aligned with Upper Canada (later named Ontario) and the other English speaking colonies, Nova Scotia, and part of New Brunswick. The religion, history, and language were common, with ideas and culture being similar. Colonies which became the United States and Canada share an education system with its foundation from Europe, however the geography of a vast, rural landscape and the needs of a growing working-class population yielded many differences, as well. North America was becoming an agricultural continent, especially the Mid-West and the West. In Canada, the Prairie Provinces became the ‘bread basket of the North’, while the corn grown in the United States fed both cattle and families. The farming cycle

Full document contains 184 pages
Abstract: The Halifax Regional School Board 2004 - 2006 was stripped of authority to continue its responsibilities. The Nova Scotian provincial government was acting on a pattern established in other state and provincial jurisdictions in Canada and the United Sates. This was to dismiss school boards considered to be dysfunctional and have either the municipal unit (the mayor) or the centralized government take control, in the form of a Minister of Education or State Superintendent. This study examines the background of school board development, issues of democracy and representation, and the responsibility of the press. This qualitative study relied upon documents, interviews, secondary and primary sources. Historiography, ethnography, and survey work all figured prominently in gathering data results. Recommendations for future study include the influence of the press, examination of roles of key actors, and race as an issue in school board governance.