A Proposed Model for Better Governing Board Communication

A key reason I am running for the board is to “promote better communication and transparency between all school stakeholders“.  For me, communications is a critical issue for our school that has the capacity to make-or-break us if we’re not careful.

I believe the Governing Board has an especially crucial role to play in better communications with the entire school population and community and the existing communications has been faulty and confusing at-best.

I propose a simple three-step plan to improve board-to-community communications.

  1. No less than one week before the governing board meeting, an announcement is sent to the school’s community through our normal distribution channels and to interested third-parties (such as the local neighborhood association) containing:
    • The time, date and location of the meeting.
    • The entire agenda of items to be discussed with detail as-appropriate to what will be discussed and if planned votes are to be cast on certain subjects (or not).
    • Clear feedback options outlined in the communication including:
      • How to attend and give public comment.
      • Location of a “Comment Box” for leaving comments.
      • An email address or other online method for leaving comments for the board.
  2. During the Governing Board Meeting, all public comments are heard and/or read to the board in-context with the agenda item being discussed.
  3. No more than one week after the governing board meeting, the board publishes their minutes detailing:
    • Exact action taken with respect to each agenda item.
    • Should any emergency item be discussed that was not on the agenda, clear information about what was decided with additional explanation of why it was not previously alerted to the public in the previous communication.
    • Next-steps or follow-up opportunities.

I should note here that I strongly believe each person with feedback for the board should physically come to the board meeting unless impossible circumstances arise precluding them from attendance.  However, in this age of communication, there is no reason we can’t be more forthright about what will be discussed, allow feedback and data for the discussion, and report clearly on what has been decided and next-actions.

I also wish to note that I advocate for open, full-disclosure in all issues. Persons who come to the board with feedback should do so expecting to fully-disclose themselves and their interests to the board.  Only in exceptional circumstances would anonymous feedback be allowed.

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4 thoughts on “A Proposed Model for Better Governing Board Communication

  1. I received a comment on Facebook that I am cross-posting back here for archiving:nn====ORIGINAL COMMENT====nnDoes the board deal with personnel issues? If so, “fully open door” may be against federal law and or state law. Also, issues with union representation and contracts need to be kept under wraps, to keep negotiations out of the public light–it always goes south when that happens.nnDon’t get me wrong, I love “open door.” But a School board is elected to deal with many things the public doesn’t want to know. It’s like making sausage. You really don’t want to know what goes inside…nnPlus…how does the funding in your district work? In Indiana, it is a labyrinthine mess, getting worse because the State is stepping in to take over from a property tax cap scenario. Many Boards of Education have been transformed into lobbyists for government funding. Lots o’ hats for a volunteer or part time position…nn====MY REPLY ====nnI agree there are certain things that need to be private. By “disclosure”, I don’t mean every single little thing (such as contract negotiations or opening the personnel files for the world to read). nnI really refer to transparency around intention, timing and community communication before making decisions. In the last six to nine months, there has been some major changes to the school’s curriculum, staffing and considerations for a possible expansion to a High School (currently on-hold) that many parents are just now finding out about. nnSome people feel the current board and/or administration hid the information from them, or buried it in the minutiae of the agenda only to be discovered after it was “too late”. The result of that is some heated and intense emotions, lots of miss-communication, rumor, speculation and general fear, uncertainty and doubt.nnIf we tell people what we will discuss in the board meeting, invite them to discuss it with us, then clearly tell them what was discussed and the decisions that were made (and feedback mechanisms where appropriate), we can curb the confusion and actually get back to progressing with the real issues our school is facing.nnIn terms of the funding, we have received cuts from the state for the last two years in a row, though Utah is already dead-last in the country in per-pupil funding (see http://bit.ly/bq2Fgo ). As a Charter Public School, we receive about enough government funds to pay for the basics but not a lot more. We have many options in terms of fund-raising, and are in the infancy of charging up our Sustainable Fund-raising Committee with some new goals and plans. Our charter dictates that a primary objective of the Governing Board is to fund-raise, something I look forward to helping with, if elected.nn–nRobert Merrillnhttp://robertmerrill.name << Elect me to Freedom Academy's School Board!

    1. Excellent, Rob. You’d have my vote. This is one of the major beefs I have had with the public school system you grew up in and my children still attend. I just wanted to hear your answer, you covered all the bases I’d be concerned with.rnrnExcept one: You use the term “last place in funding–or some other statement like that. That is a cause to cheer, not moan. Always try to find a way to excel on less than others have.

    2. Excellent, Rob. You’d have my vote. This is one of the major beefs I have had with the public school system you grew up in and my children still attend. I just wanted to hear your answer, you covered all the bases I’d be concerned with.rnrnExcept one: You use the term “last place in funding–or some other statement like that. That is a cause to cheer, not moan. Always try to find a way to excel on less than others have.

      1. Thanks for your comment, and that is a very good point–we should work hard to excel on less-spending than others. I have always thought of business that way, but I never thought of school funding that way–interesting paradigm shift. Thanks!nnCurrently, our teachers have reduced benefits and haven’t received a raise in 2 years. That’s unsustainable, and it’s just a matter-of-fact that we will lose our best people if we don’t take better care of them. We can and need to do better, but it doesn’t have to come from the public trough.

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