Read this interesting story about the Seattle School Board. You'll find the new language of big-company management being spoken by the new boardmembers, all of whom promised to bring that perspective to the troubled district. The four new members, Peter Maier (a consumer lawyer), Steve Sundquist (formerly with Russell Investment Group), Sherry Carr (finance manager at Boeing), and Harium Martin-Morris (also a Boeing executive), all ran on the same basic platform: it takes experience with big business to handle a huge budget like the School District's. This experienced team was cast in the role by an informal coalition of school activists, with some helpful guidance from the Mayor's office. Looks like they meant what they said. An initiative to help struggling Southeast Seattle schools, for instance, has ballooned in cost to an annual $3-4 million, so now the Board is questioning whether that's sustainable for many years. Back to the drawing boards. As for the structural deficit, which might produce a $22 million shortfall next year, the Board put its foot down on a proposal to spend $20 million of the District's $29 million reserve. Think again. Likewise, the new superintendent, Maria Goodloe-Johnson, is hard at work on a five-year strategic plan, to be announced in May, that will provide a basis for funding some new initiatives and nixing others. She's getting a lot of help from some top education schools and strategic gurus. One irony in this shift back to running the schools like a big business is that the last time this was tried, in the 1990s under the leadership of former School Boardmember Don Nielsen, the management advice was all for decentralization and empowering principals and teachers, in what was called "building-based management." That fell apart (not enough good principals, apparently). Now the advice from a businesslike superintendent is more centralization and a more unified curriculum. What the two eras have in common is a resolve to set a strategic direction, fund it on pay-as-you-go, and (thanks to a cohesive new board majority) stick to it long enough to make a difference. Might work.