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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How Does the Board Enforce Policy

I see a lot of support among the District leadership for clear job descriptions and duties for everyone in the District - everyone, that is, except the District leadership. Each Board member will acknowledge that the Board has the duty to enforce policy yet no Board member will allow that duty to be explicitly stated in any document. It does not appear in the newly adopted Series 1000 Policies. It does not appear in the policy that describes the duties of the Board. It does not appear in the policy on governance. Now the Board is going to adopt two more elements of Board policy that should mention this duty yet fail to do so.

The board policy preamble on the Board meeting agenda this week is an ideal place for it, but instead the preamble makes reference to it only vaguely and euphemistically as "governance tools". It says that policies can be used by the superintendent to hold staff accountable but it neglects to say that they can be used by the Board to hold the superintendent accountable.

Another excellent opportunity to overt state the Board's duty to enforce policy appears with the proposed Policy 1620 on the board's agenda this week. Again the opportunity is squandered with a ambiguous reference to governance tools and the opaque statement that "The Superintendent shall be held accountable to all areas of responsibility delegated to him or her by policy".

You might wonder what harm comes from this pussyfooting. The harm is also clear this week as the Board adopts the student assignment plan for 2012-2013. The plan acknowledges that "Some of these program placement changes have been implemented." So, once again, the superintendent is in violation of the program placement policy. How disappointing after she had promised the Executive Committee that she could comply with the policy this year. The policy only requires transparency. The superintendent clearly has a process for making program placement decisions - we know that because she has made some. She refuses, however, to disclose that process as required by the policy. This not only represents a failure to comply with the policy, contempt for transparency, and contempt for the public's involvement in our district. Because the superintendent has spoken so highly of the value of transparency, it also represents a personal hypocrisy and lack of integrity. It's very discouraging.

The Board must act. The Board must enforce the policy. Whether they specifically acknowledge it or not, this is their duty. The first step, of course, would be to refuse to vote on the transition plan for 2012-2013 until the required transparency has been provided. In the absence of this transparency, the motion simply is not ready for a vote.

I look forward to the day when the Board takes its governance duties seriously and steps up to enforce policy. I wish that day came this week.

Next, the Board should have this duty explicitly stated in the preamble to the policy book, in the list of the Board's duties, in the policy on governance, and in the policy on the Board-Superintendent relationship.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

And that all policies are in accordance with state law.

That would help to get rid of the the "because I say so" loophole.

-JC.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, I concur. It is painful to listen to them walking through these policies and wondering about enforcement. It means little to nothing if the Board will not do its most important job.

Kate Martin said...

The program placement process fails to follow a logical planning sequence. Has a problem been defined and articulated? Does a particular program placement solve that problem? Has the programs ability to address that problem been articulated? We need a transparent menu / matrix of programs and a guide for when / how to introduce those programs. It often seems like schools are at the mercy of their principal who may or may not try and get relevant attractive programs into their schools or unattractive irrelevant programs out. If the principal is not motivated in this area or if the admin doesn't engage the principal, staff + school community in decision making in this area, the district does as they wish, injects a seat filling program as a capacity management move and fails to come up with a sum greater than the parts. Also, a superimposed shortage of relevant and attractive programs seems to be the rule not the exception. I wonder why that is? Sort of smacks of the charter school public lottery gimmick.