On Wednesday I had a wonderful chat with BOE President, Sue Grey. As I have mentioned in the context of other board members, I want to disclaim that Sue was speaking as an individual, not as the voice of the Board. So in my notes below, keep in mind this is just a single person talking on behalf of herself. 🙂
We talked a bit about getting information to flow out from the Board and into the community. I acknowledged that the Board does indeed exercise due diligence in casting a wide net of invitations. However, not many people come, and those that do may not stick around for that long. Sadly, much of the good work and interesting news that is exhibited at a typical Board Meeting stays locked into the Board Meeting, to a degree. Some of it gets out via one-on-one conversations or eventually a glimpse is viewable via the meeting minutes. I am not sure how many people watch the meetings on TV. As I have mentioned, I have tried to record them but somehow I always end up recording the wrong thing. I blame Comcast. I think perhaps we (all of us together) need to come up with a new way to disseminate information and help make the community aware of all the awesomeness going on at the level of the Board and the Administration. Lynn Peisker does an awesome job at the building level – we need two more of her. 🙂
One possible suggestion that might help is getting the recorded sessions to be available online. I offered that I could pick up a DVD after a meeting and host it online if the BOE is amenable. Another suggestion would be to have a Board Member (or a small group of Members) and maybe even Dr. Wiegand sit down with someone like myself or Laura Bleill from Chambanamoms (or even from the TV/Radio station) for 10-15 minutes once or twice a month and spell out what big ticket items are on their collective mind.
I will be discussing the DVD idea with the Board on Monday. We have a special executive session meeting to discuss negotiations. Again, I will pass on to the Board, I will volunteer to meet with you again in March!
Just to clear the air, why do I think it is important for the community to know what the Board and the Administration is doing with their time? It is my belief that if the Board communicates what their top priorities are, it gives the public an opportunity to see a piece of the big picture and also to provide input on that direction. As it stands, we have too little communication, in my opinion.
A related item I forgot to mention during our chat (kicking myself big time) is about communication coming back the other way, from the community to the Board. What is the most appropriate way to have something akin to “office hours” where community members can tell the Board what is on their mind? I realize that email is one avenue that is heavily used. And I am sure we who email the Board sometimes overwhelm them. 🙂 On this topic, I want to tie in her thoughts about the PTA and PTA Council. She asked why the PTA Council is no longer being represented at Board Meetings. I think this is an excellent question. From my perspective, PTA has largely lost its appeal to parents and teachers. Granted, I have a limited perspective. In my Utopian world, parents would readily voice their concerns and thoughts to school PTAs, which would then percolate up to the Council, which would then make their summary known to the Board. This seems like an excellent solution to me. In theory. But it does not happen now. If I could, I would breathe new life into PTAs.
As a follow-up, Sue asked about the possibility of a Board Member speaking at PTA Council meetings from time to time. Gaby, I’ll be heading your way soon to talk about PTA Council (again). *grin*
Some of the big items Sue mentioned that currently occupy the mind of the Board is money; what to do about pension funding, transportation funding and the early childhood programs funding to name a couple victims if the State continues to screw us. These are big concerns, and like Sue said, Gene Logas has done a phenomenal job of getting us ready for the rainy day. I am not sure most community members see that picture. And then the whole High School thing. As we talked about, I truly believe this to be a crucial time in Unit 4’s history, and I see the discussion surrounding the high school as pivotal and extremely significant. I appreciate what she said concerning the PR (public engagement) firm that Unit 4 hired in this effort, and the idea of doing something along the line of “Great Schools, Together”. I think that is awesome! I do share her concern about the Board being lambasted (again) for hiring an outside firm. I have another concern that this new effort improve upon GST in that it goes the extra mile to pull in more voices. From what I hear from others who attended the GST events, Big Business eventually drowned out most everyone else. Again, that is hear-say – I was not involved directly, so I am only going on what others have told me.
Again as a follow-up, Sue suggested I talk to Greg and/or Kristine. I probably should have mentioned on Wednesday that I have, and have written about it. 🙂 Sue did insist that the Board did a lot of listening during GST, and I am sure they did! It is not my intent to cast the Board as stubborn people with fingers in their ears. I see that they are trying hard to engage the community, especially during GST which was a huge time commitment from several groups of people. It’s the communication piece that seems to always trip us up.
Sue mentioned that she is a big fan of experiential learning, and her thought of asking Kindergartner’s what they want High School to be like is quite interesting. I wonder how my daughter would respond. My thoughts started churning also – getting kids at all levels involved is just…. that blows my mind. Let’s do it! 🙂 This was on the heels of my thoughts about connecting to the University to ask Professors to have their students come up with solutions for us. (Nod to Imani, Pattsi and Sena).
- Make Open Session recordings available on-demand; I am very willing to help, I just need the green light and a blessing from the right people
- Set up a short recurring schedule whereby a Board Member and/or Dr. Wiegand meets with a public representative (face to face) to disclose “top 5” things that are going on with the Board and maybe even respond to brief questions