Wednesday, June 8, 2011

It is Not the Board's Schedule

Tonight, my suggestion and motion to move our meetings from Tuesdays to Wednesdays got voted down 1-4. I obviously was the only one who voted yes.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Whose Schedule is It?

At the CCSD School Board's May 24th meeting, I made a simple suggestion to move our Board meetings next year to Wednesdays instead of Tuesdays. For as long as I can remember, and probably longer than that, CCSD School Board meetings have been held on Tuesdays. No one I asked can give me a reason why, other than that is the way it always is/was.

I asked to move the meetings for two reasons. One, so our meetings do not conflict with the Town Board meetings. Anyone interested in local governance like I am cannot actively participate in both Town Board meetings and School Board meetings. While you can watch them both online at your convenience, if you wish to attend both and/or participate in both, you are forced to make a choice of one over the other. While I concede regular attendance at both board meetings is limited, that is besides the point. This is about good governance.

I also think that having the meetings on the same day sends the wrong symbolic message to the community. As it is, correct or incorrect, the message we send to the community with our meetings scheduled on the same day is that we do not work together and we do not care about the conflict.

I want to change that perception. Coming off the recent conflict over the former Reader's Digest property, this would be a great first step toward repairing the relationship between the two boards. The two boards share many of the same interests, have many (but not all) of the same constituents, and are both part of the same community; we need to act like the good neighbors we are.

Changing the meeting day to Wednesday also sends a positive message to the community of change. Over the past few years, the School Board has changed with the times. We are a proactive dynamic Board that is able to be both academically supportive and fiscally responsible. But, perception may not yet have caught up with reality.

Change continues this year in the district. We will have two new Board members. Of the remaining three Board members, one is completing his rookie year, another her second year and I am finishing my fourth year. Next year, the average term of a sitting Board Member will be 1.4 years. We will also have a new Superintendent and a new Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum as well as a new head of Human Resources.

A change to Wednesdays signals a new way of doing things, that we are willing to be flexible, dynamic, and break conventions.

Two, moving the meetings to Wednesdays would be a significant positive change for me personally. I do not think it necessary or appropriate to give the details of my personal reasons, but suffice it to say that the change would materially benefit my family life, my professional life and my personal life. Not changing will also have a measurable negative affect on my situation.

While serving on the School Board is a privilege, it is not without its burdens. Between Board meetings, exec sessions, committee work, interviews, school walk thrus, retreats, meetings with constituents, and meetings with administrators and staff the time commitment is immense. It is not a role one takes on for any sane reason other than a true commitment to the community and its children. That may sound corny, but it is true. Every Board Member I have ever served with or known personally, regardless of where they stand on individual issues, serves because of a commitment to education, to the children of the community and to their neighbors. It is certainly not for the pay or the perks.

So, while it may sound self serving and may even be self serving, to the extent possible, I strongly believe that we should make serving on the Board less of a burden where ever possible. Accommodating Board Members when possible will help retain experienced Board Members and will not be a limiting factor in attracting new volunteers. To the extent we can make it easier on any one of us without making it harder on any of us, we should. We already do everything possible to accommodate those on the Board who work full time. Why not accommodate those with evening conflicts too? We should try even if that means more work in the short run for the Administration or other groups that may be affected.

If you watch the tape of the meeting, none of the remaining Board Members nor the two incoming Board members have an issue with moving the meetings to Wednesday. I can also say that subsequent to the meeting all checked their schedules and still have no issue themselves with moving to Wednesdays.

But, there is opposition within the school community to the change. No one I spoke to thinks it is a bad idea. All opposition to the change revolves around logistics/work involved in making the change.

Quite frankly, while I am sympathetic to the amount of effort needed to successfully make this change and have volunteered to take on that task, we should make the decision based on what is right, not on the amount of work needed. Making the expedient decision over the right decision will send the wrong signal to the community and will negate the hard work this Board and this Administration has done in becoming more flexible, more transparent and more community accessible, or to put it in more 21st century terms, more user friendly.

We should never let the threat of hard work prevent doing what is right.