I attended about three hours of the Board Retreat today, and I'm glad I was there for the parts I watched. I was the only member of the public in attendance from 10:00 to 12:00 when Sara Morris arrived.
The Retreat was primarily focused around one thing: a class on Governance from Don McAdams. He stressed the need for the Board to do the work of oversight. The oversight that he said the Board - any Board - needed to do was three types:
1) To confirm that management decisions (regardless of whether they were good decisions or bad decisions) were compliant with policy
2) To confirm that policies were followed
3) To evaluate performance relative to pre-determined benchmarks
I was freakin' THRILLED to hear him say these things.
Before I left at 1:00 I suggested that he get an independant perspective of the Board - rather than just hearing about them from them. He asked for the two-minute version (because I was leaving) and I told him that the Board was not doing ANY of the oversight he described; not a speck of it. He said that I should look forward to them starting to do it now - especially after that audit. I replied that they had been told by other sources on numerous occassions that they were neglecting that work and they continued to neglect it. He repeated his optimism. I also asked him what he thought of a superintendent who didn't act on a direction from the Board that was voted in a Board action. He said that it was a firing offense. I told him that it had happened here and nobody did anything about it.
As for the Board members, they spoke exactly according to their personal scripts.
Michael DeBell was wonderful. He laid it right out. He said that the District leadership had lost an appeal in Superior Court, had received a scathing audit from the State Auditor, that the teachers' union had voted almost unanimously no-confidence in the superintendent and that, for the first time in his memory, there was organized opposition to a levy. He said that if it had been just one of any of these four it could be shrugged off, but when the District gets these strong signals from other government institutions and from its partners, they need to very seriously consider the fact that they have a deep problem and they need to solve it.
Kay Smith-Blum seems smart and well-intentioned, but swamped under the learning curve.
Betty Patu's heart is in the right place. She feels, very deeply, that the Board is responsible, but she doesn't really seem to be able to connect that sense of responsibility to a specific action.
The four from 2007 were much more focused on how to document and organize the To Do list than taking any of the actions on it. Their blather was really frustrating.
The Superintendent did what she does best. She re-defined everything that everyone else said into terms that suited her.