This past week the Oakley Union Elementary School District board of trustees in northern California resigned en masse. The board members were talking on an open Zoom channel and said some disparaging things about complaining parents. To paraphrase a few of their comments, one member said that parents simply wanted someone to babysit their kids. Another board member said that parents wanted to smoke marijuana and they needed school to get their kids out of the house. The chair of the board rattled off a string of expletives in response to a Facebook post a parent made.

Over the last 25 years, I have served on about seven major government and nonprofit boards. This doesn't include the extremely boring university meetings I often have to attend. In my first year at the university, I was called into an "important" faculty meeting. One professor was very upset and spent about 20 minutes explaining his complaint in dramatic terms to everyone. If I recall, he was having trouble getting a $10 reimbursement for copy fees. I finally stood up, pulled a $20 bill out of my wallet and told him to pay the bill and have lunch on me. As I walked out, I asked that I not be invited to any more silly meetings.

A second type of board is generally a "rubber stamp" board. These boards are often likely created by bored legislative employees seeking to cut and paste some type of function they see used in another state jurisdiction. For the most part, a public board is not really needed for many of these functions. Trained government employees could likely accomplish most of these tasks. Because the employee writing the bill often doesn't really understand best practices, our government ends up riddled with boards for everything. Most of these functions are handled by the administrative "secretary of state" at the state level. We should look at this model.

Finally, there are "mushroom" boards. These boards are the ones I am most critical of. These are boards that are "fed on crap and kept in the dark." Since the organizations they serve often have money or other resources, these board members get cowed into not actually functioning. In some cases, the agencies actually get to handpick these members. They then ply them with trips and other perks to keep them tame.

Ron McNinch teaches at the University of Guam School of Business and Public Administration.