Often in systems as large as Fairfax (175,000 students) and Montgomery (144,000), school boards are as much an impediment as a boost to learning. So in the 14 years I have been watching those counties closely, the high quality of their elected leadership has often surprised me. Both have been blessed with board members who understand how school improvement has to work, and were willing to pick superintendents smarter than they were and let them do their jobs.I might have phrased it differently than "willing to pick superintendents smarter than they were", perhaps instead noting that these superintendents, like Loudoun's Superintendent Hatrick, are nationally recognized experts in a very challenging professional field. School Board members bring many indispensable personal and professional qualities to the job, but expertise in management of public educational systems is rarely among them.
The two counties have high family incomes and education levels, but that does not always correlate with intelligent school boards. I think Fairfax and Montgomery lucked out, but that is still worth celebrating.
The management philosophy that Mathews lays out is one that I learned in my training as a US Army officer... pick good people, give them a mission and the necessary tools, and then let them get that job done. Don't try to do it for them.
School Boards should set clearly defined goals and hold Superintendents accountable for meeting those goals. They should not be in the business of micromanagement.