Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen things I need to do on the School Board

This may be just too damn personal to mean anything, but I've been more and more aware of all the things I want to get done, and how little time I have left to get any of them accomplished.

My term ends next November. If I run for re-election (someone hit me over the head RIGHT NOW!), I need to have some things checked off before I roll out a campaign mid-summer. So this becomes an exercise in determining, "Is this at all reasonable?"

  1. Get the other two hundred (200!) individual Board Policies and Administrative Regulations out of the cycle of review in the Policy Subcommittee so that the Board can approve the entire "Students" section of the policy manual. (Project was slated to take three months. We're coming up on a year.) Main frustration: I'm the one who edited all the policies and compared them to the old policies. I've spent more than 150 hours on this, just on the formatting alone. No one else who is supposed to review them after me will freaking read them. let alone move them out of committee.
  2. Start work on the Board Bylaws. The board has a cohesive majority. Want to change the philosophies of the District? Change the Board Bylaws. The rest of the Board won't discuss them until the Policy Committee (with me as the only working member) brings them sample policies to discuss.
  3. Get a working vocational program, one that leads to actual careers and doesn't only rely upon autobody techniques, at both High Schools. (Turns out the local Building Trades Unions already HAVE an excellent program in four other districts in the County. Hello! Me too! Me too!)
  4. Ensure that the Gifted and Talented Education program (GATE) is actually teaching gifted and talented kids coursework at a gifted and talented level. The program is described as being *integrated* into each child's school day, and each child is supposed to have an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) targeted to that child's unique learning style, interests, and needs. Currently there's a geotracking club after school on Fridays. (Hello! GATE coordinator! The State will take our money away. Hello!)
  5. Hire some IT people who freaking know how to run a computer and know how to maintain a server. You would not believe the stories coming out of the schools regarding our technology department. (We just a modernization construction project at the Middle School, financed by State funds. Each classroom has a new docking station for a teacher's laptop. The docking stations were Board-approved so that each teacher could take all information on the desktop--grades, classwork, etc.--home at night. Technology has no idea how to interface the docking stations with the desktops. The Director of Technology has recommended that teachers simply download all pertinent information from the desktop to to a disk. ::headdesk::) (Hello! State will ask for reimbursement of Bond Moneys if the project is audited! Hello!)
  6. Make sure all homes in Benicia are receiving the public access cable channel. Because some members of the public aren't. ::headdesk::
  7. Investigate transitioning from a half-day Kindergarten to a full-day Kindergarten.
  8. Determine how our students do once they graduate from our system.
  9. Develop a Mission Statement which isn't just gobbledygook.
  10. Develop a Strategic Plan to implement the Mission Statement.
  11. Develop workable Core Values for the District so that everytime a group wants attention or money we aren't all spinning our wheels saying, "I dunno. Is that what this District does?"
  12. Get Something done. Really. Accomplish something tangible other than rehiring people we encouraged to retire three years ago.
  13. Shut down the toxic anonymous website which pretends it's a newspaper but which has not a single reporter, editor, or message board monitor. Currently serves as a "slam site" for the Middle School and a screechfest for adults acting like children.
In regards to 12--here's a sticky wicket:

A number of years ago the Board (not while I was on it, but just prior) made it clear that they were going to cut all sorts of support staff, or at least reduce their hours. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, a number of our excellent longterm staff opted to retire, although they didn't want to leave. They received an early retirement bonus, and the next year some of those positions were eliminated entirely.

So, now we're back on solid ground, and we are reinstating those positions. Those people would like to come out of retirement, but we've already paid into a State-run annuity to cover the bonus.

The State says, "Have the person receiving the bonus pay the State back all of their bonus money before they come back to work." Yeah, but some of those families totally cannot afford that kind of lump sum hit. And the District wants them back, but we can't afford to cover the payback for the large number of employees who wish to return either.

So we're in negotiations with the State. Everything always defaults to negotiations. Long way to get anything done, but hey, it's better than fighting.


CindyS said...

*swings baseball bat* I'm warming up ;)

Okay, as to numbers 9 and 10 - forget about it. Mission statements should be at the bottom of your list right now. Mission statements actually make my head hurt because I usually read them and wonder who the hell wrote it becauase they normally don't make a lick of sense. I only read them when I'm bored, don't have a book and am waiting in a waiting room. Ugh.

In Canada in my Godson's school I have just learned that of the 500 students, 100 are deemed exceptional (children with special learning needs). My feeling is that if 1/5 of the student population needs resourse help then maybe our education program is failing. I think our education system needs a complete overhaul and I also think our schools need more employees to make the changes.

Oops, that was about me ;)

IT people usually suck.

I'd go with number 3 because you can model after the other districts and well, I have no clue what 1 and 2 mean.

Oh and full days for kindergarten students is evil but then I've watched my 5 yr old Godson come home and flake out on the couch. I guess you can't fight the majority and the majority are double income families who need their kids in one spot for the day. *sigh*

Okay, I'm done ;)


Marianne McA said...

Suisan, can I ask a stupid question? [Can't ask any other kind...] What is a school board? Over here each school has a board of govenors - but they don't have anything like the responsibilities you're talking about, and while the parent govenors are elected, they tend to be elected by default - there's only ever four keen parents at the meeting, and the most gullible one gets elected. So for a while, I was thinking the School Board was more like our Education & Library Boards, which oversee education (& libraries, obviously) for an area - but reading this, you seem to be elected for a specific school, so that's not quite it either.
And, rude question - Ha!!! Did I say I could only ask stupid things? Not so. Our two main questioning techniques are... Sorry, the rude question is, are members of the School Board paid? [And if so, are you paid enough? Seems like a huge responsibility.]

Suisan said...

Cindy--Batter up!


Basically I'm a city councilman, except that I'm not in charge of passing ordinances for a city, but I'm in charge of setting policies for a school District. We have about 5,000 students, four elementary schools, one middle school, and two high schools. It's different state to state, but in California, we're actually a County entity. I know that in Massachusetts, for example, the school committee is either parallel to or subordinate to the City COuncil, and the City COuncil appropriates monies for the running of the schools. In my town, the Cty Council, Mayor, and City Manager are separate from but analogous to the School Board, the School Board President, and the Superintendent.

The SChool Board are publicly elected offificals. THe SUperintendent is a school administrator, usually with a masters or PhD, who is hired byt eh School Board to runt he schools on a dya to day basis.

And we're not paid. :(

We used to get a 3K stipend per year, but we recinded it when we faced a budget crisis. I wouldn't mind getting it back, if only to pay for babysitting.

DId that answer all the questions?

CindyS said...


*keels over*

Hours later comes to and grabs baseball bat mumbling something about 'saving the cheerleader' ;)


Marianne McA said...

Thanks. Yes, that's much clearer - except I'm now confused about money. Hadn't thought about it before, but I've no idea how anything is funded in the US. Is there a federal budget for education (is federal even the word I want?), or does each state levy taxes for education, or is the money raised even more locally than that?
That's just idle curiosity though, the definition of a School Board was what I needed.
I know budget crises are problematic - they've been cutting everything to the bone here - but you should at least get the stipend. There's a subtle difference between giving your time for the public good, and giving your time & being left out of pocket. Hard from your point of view to lobby for it to be returned - but it ought to be - otherwise it discriminates against those less well off who might want to participate.
[That's the moral argument, but really, you just ought to be paid.]