Board Evaluation, Part Two

Update - Blogger won't cooperate so I'll end now but full wrap-up to come.

Blogger is getting wonky so I will start a new thread on it.

Bob Ness, the Alliance's favorite facilitator, is leading the Board conversation on the findings.

What is the goal for this discussion?

Director Carr - commit directionally to some of the recommendations on slides 18 and 22.  (She does not want to "rehash" things.

No one else brought up a goal but then Director DeBell spoke up about different concepts of the role of a Board member.  "We won't work together effectively if we don't agree what our role is."  He believes they could be more successful if that happens.

(This is a six-month going-forward effort.)

President Smith-Blum said that she hoped it was possible to believe each as a valid opinion as any other colleague.  She wants to find consensus around how they move together as a board.

Reflections on what they heard:

Director Patu - She sees focus on the work and identify a unified purpose is most important for her.  She sees mistrust throughout this document and find common ground to trust each other to move forward and doing the work.

Director Peaslee -  She feels the Board does its best when they are focused on the work but if they get distracted by other issues, there's problems.  "Blame and finger-pointing is the dysfunctionality of dynamic" is her belief.

Director Carr - I think this is what we need to do.  I would request - since we already have documentation on our role, both state and our own - and we have to start with our own published definition.  If we need to make changes, we make them there.  Training, training, training is how to get there.  In a vaccum, we tend to fill in negatively and we need to not do that.

President Smith-Blum - Should work with Cabinet on this work so they know what we are thinking and how we see our role.

Director Martin-Morris says fundamentally the trust and dysfunctional isues is because there is not a clear understanding of what the work is.  The fact is we are all "at-large" members of this Board.  We start from that point and what does that mean?  What's the actual work of a Board member?

(Apparently at the retreat there were divisions over what the day to day work is of a Board member.)

Ness said the data appeared that the Board was "storming" (as opposed to forming, norming).  Whatever.  He said that might be about new members (somewhat out of line but he said it).

Smith-Blum stated that it's hard at the beginning to figure out how to respond to constituents and supporting new members if you've had that experience.

Director DeBell said that he thought this should be a "wake-up call."  "First do no harm."  He thinks they should pull back and narrow their role so everyone (Cabinet) can get their work done.  Most important issue is governance versus management.

Director McLaren said she had NOT been told of missteps she had made.  In fact, she felt that the district had moved forward in its work and yet this report makes sound very bad.


mirmac1 said…
This board spends way too much time naval-gazing (thanks to the Alliance and their "retreats"). Think of what we might have if they spent as much time and money selecting an outstanding math curriculum.
parent said…
Has the report been made public?
mirmac1 said…
DeBell says do no harm!?! He is the single most harmful member on the board! Formin' and normin' is fine as long as it is by his rules and the wishes of his clique and obeisant staffers (Harmon and English carry his water). DeBell, Sara Morris and friends are only happy if they're doing the stormin'.

Some might think "why didn't we hear all this moaning hand-wringing during the days of the rubber-stamping board?" Because the majority at the time felt it was their job to sit there like bobbleheads while Banda's predecessors ran this district into the ground. I wonder if these "evaluations" will take the place of retreats, now that the Alliance realizes we're onto their brainwashing and manipulation.

Melissa, I hope you get a copy of the survey results and post them. And I would particularly like to learn which executive staff is scared of the board.
Jon said…
I agree with mirmac1, way too much navel-gazing. Where are their priorities? If all the board did was tightly audit the budget, took action when policies were not followed, and took action when the law was broken, we'd already be well on our way to a much more functional district.
Anonymous said…
BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH, and another 5 years go by.
A-mom said…
Um, Peaslee, I would say "the dysfunctionality of dynamic" is ignoring your community meetings for three months.
Very eye opening Melissa.
Thanks for letting us see what these people think of their jobs.
Two thoughts aired that I find disturbing:
Feeling of working in a vacuum
Not knowing what the work is
I have requested an electronic copy of the report. I will post it as soon as I get it. The comments, from both Board and cabinet (pages and pages of them) made for illuminating bedtime reading last night.
Disgusted said…
More BS, just another day.

Not sure why the board has to speak as one voice. Votes dictate and majority wins.
Carol Simmons said…
Disgusted said "not sure why the board has to speak as one voice. Votes dictate and majority wins."

I agree. As a Board watcher for many, many years.....thank heavens that the Board has not spoken as just one voice.
Someone said…
It would seem rather pointless to "speak with one voice" but I don't understand the thing about turmoil over new people - there will always be new board members every few years - that's kinda the point of making them elective positions right? Shouldn't someone have figured out how to effectively move new in/old out by now???

As for staff being scared of the board - that seems like a GOOD thing - as a taxpayer, I want someone keeping the admin staff of SPS on their toes, holding them accountable, holding their feet to the fire - there is frankly not enough of that kind of thing happening (at least in a "public" way). I realize it's the Supts. job to hire/fire executive staff, but I don't think a healthy respect for the Board is a bad thing.

And Jon is spot on with his "if all the board did" list frankly.
Anonymous said…
I'll third it on Jon's comment.

The only thing sustaining this bunch is the knowledge that appointed directors might be worse, but they'd better watch their backs. Appointed directors will no doubt clearly understand their job description and purpose.

Mr. White
Anonymous said…
In the context of the cabinet and the staff, the board speaking with "one voice" makes some sense. The staff are people trying to do their jobs and being held accountable up the chain of command to the various school board committees. Sometimes there is overlap and staff are responsible to report or discuss matters directly to school board members on more than one committees. If the members of those committees are out of synch or giving contradictory priorities, opinions, and instructions, that leaves the staff in a difficult position.

Believe me, I have had my share of frustrations with district departments and staff, but piling on when they're at least trying to identify dysfunction isn't going to help. It sounds like some constructive feedback coming out of the evaluation process.

--parent advocate
Disgusted said…
Staff listens to one voice- Banda's voice.

Banda listens to the board. Direction is determined by votes.
Shouldn't someone have figured out how to effectively move new in/old out by now???

Yes, that is a good question. Smith-Blum said she was preparing something for the next person to be Board president in terms of scheduling, etc. Carr also mentioned still wanting an annual calendar of what is coming and I couldn't believe they didn't already have that.

I think Banda listens to a variety of people and has been pretty supportive of staff.

I think what is important to me is a solid public voice and that means that even if they don't vote in unison, they do NOT, after the vote, talk about the vote. DeBell did this last year and I was quite surprised because when you take a vote, it's done and you don't continue arguing it unless you have new information/data.
mirmac1 said…
OMG! The skullduggery!. Wonder how Banda feels about his senior staff whinging and smearing behind his back.
Anonymous said…
mirmac is 100% right.

The board should abandon all aspects of their management vs. labor paradigm, realizing that labor half is a hell of a lot more popular with their constituents/parents than management.

The Board fails because it becomes to buddy-buddy with staff (management), who are not popular and typically implementing plans on behalf of their benefactors like Gates and LEV, instead of serving parents.

It's all plain and simple and it didn't require an audit or report to uncover it. It's been the same thing all along. If and when staff learn to serve parents and communities, instead of the cocktail crowd, the board will miraculously get along just fine.

Do no harm? Try getting your nose out of the cocktail circuit's a$$ for two seconds. That's where the "harm" originates.

joanna said…
I disagree with Harium's remarks that they are basically at-large members. They act more like representatives of each District. With issues that involve individual schools or assignment areas, each one usually speaks to the schools in his or her district and as a whole they defer to the representative of that district. For good schools and programs, it is important for the district to have excellent representation.

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