Sunday, March 26, 2006

HAFTR & Rambam - Trust the Experts II

Earlier I posted the "Trust the Experts" argument, we should trust the experts (in this case the boards of Rambam and HAFTR) to make the best decision possible. Talk now might only scuttle the deal, and while a bad deal can always be killed later, a good deal can't be ressurected once poisoned.

The argument is an old one. Should people be trusted to make their own decisions, or should decisions be made for them. Both extremes produce terrible results, anarchy on one end, communism on the other. The trick is finding the balance.

George remarks that directors must place a vote to the shareholders when major decisions arise. Mergers and acquisitions and director election are two examples. But if the analogy were perfect, the shareholders (technically whoever owns the school) would have the right to vote. The parents, who are really the customers, could "vote with their feet" and send their children elsewhere.

Nor does the Board consist of experts, according to George. They are doctors, lawyers, and accountants, but not experts. I have to take issue with that, they were placed on the board by someone, presumably because they know what's going on. You don't need a business degree to be a director of a corporation. But George is right, that other lawyers and doctors have almost as much expertise as the members of the board (though they may lack some information).

Indeed, the "experts" on running the school are probably the administration, or by analogy, the CEO, CFO, etc. Rabbis Friedman and Eliach at Rambam, for example. The directors lay out broad plans, but its the experts who implement them.

The "Trust the Experts" argument doesn't work in this case because the schools themselves have divulged the information. Most everyone would agree that once the plan is laid out it can be discussed. The extreme "Trust the Experts" faction will follow the experts blindly, but I don't believe even H, HC or BM would hold of that. If schools never faced criticism, they would be accountable to no one. So why should it matter if the entire plan is laid out or if the school releases it bit by bit? They've admitted to talks and released details. Should they not be discussed? Should people wait until every i is dotted and every t crossed before analyzing what's in front of them?

If that's the case, if the school is allowing things out piecemeal in the hopes of no discussion, not only are they negligent, but stupid as well. The role of the community becomes even larger, even more important, in vetting the possible "deal."

So, with the information we have, we can discuss. We can look at possibilities and scenarios, wargame them out, see what might work and what might not. Some might say we have a duty, for the education of our children we can do no less.