School board committees —publicly accessible for a reason

Every year at the beginning of the school, parents and school staff ask themselves how the new year will go. The parents ask where they can help and the administrators ask how to get more parents involved in life of the schools. Where there is a will there is a way. Both groups can find answers in the form of shared-decision and board committees.

Although the both types of committees have been around for a long time, they are not well known among parents. For example, only 22 school districts (out of 56) in Nassau County, NY, show signs of activity of various school board committees. That is a very small number given that they complement the structure of public school system. Their main characteristic is that they are task-specific and publicly accessible. Thus, they attract the public.

Board Committees

I have been reading lately about the board committees and written about them in several instances, for example here. Why a school board committee? The school board members work in their own professions and volunteer their time for betterment of the school district. They assign themselves various tasks and need help and input from the community. Thus they create committees dedicated to those tasks. Although the committees have only power to recommend their findings to the school board, they help the school board members make decisions and govern the school district. Some board committees are standing/permanent, e.g a budget committee, others are ad hoc/temporary, e.g. steering, or bond committees.

One can get better understanding how a board committee works by watching a “real stuff,” public recordings of their meetings. For example, Wallingford Public Schools, CT, (Twitter: @WallingfordPS) appear to have publicly accessible standing committees that engage the residents very well.

Instructional committee: https://youtu.be/BG03MZwxdmA

Operations committee: https://youtu.be/YLn4pM9u440

The example of a temporary board committee comes from Union County Public Schools, NC. It shows work of Citizens Advisory committee (https://youtu.be/dqrPfJ4-ltY) dedicated to developing a plan of restructuring the school enrollment and educating the community about it. This committee was created recently, so the public will be able to follow as the process will be evolving. (Twitter: @UCPS_MonroeNC)

Shared-decision Committees (AKA Site-based)

While the board committees deal with tasks that are encompassing the entire district, the shared-decision committees are based in schools and deal with specific tasks of those schools. Their purpose is to involve parents in shaping the direction of education in particular buildings. In New York, the shared-decision committees were established in 1994 by the resolution of the commissioner of education.

I’ll dedicate posts to this type of committees in the future, but here is at least a glance at Palo Alto, CA, public schools shared-decision committees. The administrators target parents who are interested in helping in specific areas. They publicly list the committees and set clearly the application process.

Conclusion

Both, the board and shared-decision, committees help the schools and students. They attract the community to schools and make the community realize the responsibilities and create the sense of ownership. Based on the examples, the leaderships of Wallingford, Palo Alto, and Union County public schools demonstrate they understand their role in the public school system. They make genuine efforts to create tools that entice members of the community to participate in governing their schools.

The examples above were easy to find and served well as introduction to the proper structures of the public schools system. There are communities in New York that partner with their school administrations in a similar manner. I’ll be bringing their work to the general knowledge. Schools are environments for public education and collaboration. If you are involved in a well-working board or shared-decision committee, or know about some, share your experience. They deserve publicity. 

pausd board committees tasks

PAUSD school board committees and tasks

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July, start of the new school budget cycle

The abridged version of following post, titled “The school budgeting process needs public input,” appeared in LI Herald on August 10th, 2017. (In print only). Here is the full text of the article, including references.

Every year, school district communities across the New York State develop budgets for the public schools. Their efforts culminate in winter by series of workshops before the budget vote in May. At the end of June, adjustments to the budget are released (see William Floyd SD adjustment) and a new cycle of budget development starts with the school board reorganization in July.

William-Floyd-UFSD-budget-adjustmentIn New York, the public schools are governed by the local Boards of Education (BOE). In the effort to help the board members fulfill their tasks, the communities create standing and ad hoc (temporary) board committees. Repetitive/annual tasks (i.e. budget, facilities, curriculum) require standing committees. Ad hoc committees are formed for short-term tasks (i.e. bond development, employee search, school reorganization). Continue reading

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Comparing ethical norms of public school communities

Under the influence of the current accountability trend, The New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) aligned its methodology of evaluating superintendents and school boards to the HEDI matrix. (A sample of the matrix as used by NYSED is below). The 18-page evaluation guidelines are available on the association’s website. The NYSSBA guidelines evaluate more aspects than the matrix. The association added fields dedicated to the quality of the community-school board relationship and the ethics—culture—of the school board and the superintendent. But right at the opening, the guidelines mention they are not binding. Why?

evaluation-agreement-measure-teacher-practice-chart-hedi-matrixThe quality of the community-school board relationship and the ethics are difficult to quantify. People form their own opinions based on their personal beliefs and experiences. Collectively, the individuals set the ethical norms for their community, including the local schools. Community members learn the ethical norms that permeate the schools in various ways. They can attend school board meetings, work with board members on projects, and read opinions of school leaders. Also, the communications released by the school board (BOE), the governing body of the local public schools, reveal the established ethical norms. The school board meeting agendas and minutes exemplify the board’s communications with the public. Continue reading

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NYS ESSA Plan comments

On Saturday, June 10th, I attended a public hearing on the NYS ESSA plan. Next to the last of the 13 hearings scheduled across the state. Each state has to submit to the federal DOE how they envision to meet the federal requirements. The plans have to be submitted by September 18th. The NYSED worked out a 159-page draft. The first draft at this time.

I did my part as a parent participating in the system of public education. I raised my issues during the 3-minute window allowed. My concern was that the NYS ESSA plan of teaching foreign languages/LOTE is stated in just two sentences. And one of them read that the state assessments would be translated to about five languages. So, not much vision shared how the NYS “measures” its part in the global arena. Continue reading

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School Board Committees—the “public” in public education

At the beginning of February, I reposted in our local FB group dedicated to schools a picture from a vigil held in Port Washington. Some time passed by until a couple of days ago I read an article entitled “Have We Lost Sight of the Promise of Public Schools?,” published in the New York Times. The article enticed me to develop the facts I learned behind the picture into a story that can help a larger number of public school advocates. I anticipate that the public in public education will be a reoccurring theme in the media quite often.

On the confirmation day of B. DeVos, a senator launched a speech/plea in an attempt to change mind of at least one additional senator. The House was split 50-50. One more “nay” vote and she would not be confirmed as the new secretary of education. The senator’s speech was going long into the night. Continue reading

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Spotlight public and peers

The January SAC/BOE meeting brought two presentations. One informed about the school district facilities, the other depicted peer collaboration and work organization. The presentations are always welcome, as they cut the boredom of the sessions. Spiro Colaitis, the assistant superintendent, reported about facilities upkeep, bathroom upgrades, aerial (drone) surveillance, commemorative bricks, and the new fence in front of the high school. The fence was shown from different angles, including the aerial view. One picture showed a rendering of shrubs that will be planted in front of the fence in spring. Continue reading

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Funding charters in Malverne UFSD

When the president-elect-racist announced his list of possible education secretaries, articles started to pour in speculating on the effect each candidate would have on education in this country. Some authors concentrated on illustrating a collapse of public education, while others glorified the privatization, finally a green light.

If you haven’t read one, this reasonable article published by Education Week is worth your time. The authors say it straight: Continue reading

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Events, STEM, test refusal, mindset, bond publicity…discussed

Parents held a meeting at the Davison school library. In an informal atmosphere, we reflected on the past events and discussed upcoming events. The Family Craft Night this Friday, December 9, was one of them. No teacher was present at this meeting.

Mr. Benfante demonstrated, on a case of 15-year old student, what happens when the mind is set passionately on improving continually “your project.” Persistence pays off. (There are several video clips available of the same TED talk, but I think Mr. Benfante projected this one. -10 min.) The discussion transitioned into “failing forward”— a concept how to implement a failure to the learning process; how to learn from it to come up stronger. Basic explanation of “failing forward” is available here. Continue reading

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The MUFSD STEM family night

The Malverne UFSD held its first ever STEM family night and many families took advantage of the opportunity to tour the ground floor of the high school where all activities were concentrated. The STEM is popular. SDs are implementing variations of the STEM. Some SDs collaborate on its implementation. For example, I posted about it here and here. In recent years, the STEM was enriched by letters A and R, creating acronyms STEAM, and STREAM.

Parents could notice that all the three acronyms appear in various Malverne UFSD promo materials. They were displayed on a table right at the entrance. The students handed them to visitors while greeting them and inviting everybody to the upcoming bond vote taking place on Wednesday, November 16th. Continue reading

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Party first, substance later, …really?

Traditionally, the media have been framing issues to fit the two-party system with the emphasis on the frame. First, they create the red and blue frame, then try to fit issues in that frame. Let me illustrate my point on the recent article Control of New York State Senate. . ., published by WSJ on October 31st.

The frame

The article sets the frame—Republican vs. Democrat.

“. . .races in Nassau County on Long Island could help decide which party controls the New York state Senate, where Republicans wield control even though the Democrats hold a razor-thin majority.”

“. . .seat had been held for three decades by former Republican. . “

“if the Senate Democrats want to make up ground, this is crucial district for them to win.” [emphasis mine]

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