So as the winds of change blow from right, the ship tilts to the left to steer a course toward the middle. In reading the tea leaves from Tuesday’s elections across the country tells us what? Local taxes are acceptable, pensions need attention and outright attacks on bargaining rights will not work.
In California there were 53 tax/bond measures on local ballots. 40 of the 53 passed with a resounding 75% or more. California City Finances provides a complete rundown of the preliminary results.
For local school districts, five of seven parcel tax measures were successful, though the communities were renewing current parcel taxes.
For those of you thinking that this local support will translate into support for a state-wide measure to raise taxes for education, I would urge caution. Voters have shown support and trust of local government and that support does not extend to state government.
Public Employee Pensions
Every day there seems to be a news story with proposals to reform public employee pensions. In the last seven days, Governor issued a 12 point plan to change pensions, the LAO issued a report on the Governor’s proposal and Republican legislators called for a special session on pension reform.
On Tuesday, voters in An Francisco and Modesto overwhelmingly supported advisory measures to change pension plans in their cities.
Clearly, public employee pension reform will dominate the political conversation leading up to the November, 2012 election.
In Ohio reversed the attempts to eliminate the ability of public employees engage in collective bargaining.
However, Palo Alto voters overwhelmingly repealed a similar arbitration law Tuesday, as did voters in San Luis Obispo earlier this year. San Jose voters agreed to sharply limit arbitration last year.
Once again, public employees unions will be subjected to changes to their current agreements in the coming year. The public wants changes but they draw the line when those changes go too far.
In an ongoing series about the role of the school board in closing the achievement gap, I examine one of the conditions needed for the eventual courageous conversations that will need to take place.
Candidate versus School Board Member
When we are on the campaign trail, it easy to advocate for changes to school district. All we need to do is think outside the box, enter into partnerships with business or the community and live within our means. However, after we take office regardless of how committed to our individual ideas for change, learning to be part of a board is the hardest thing to accept. Ultimately, we realize that we can not solve everyone’s problem by our self.
Why Collaboration Is Important
Board collaboration with the superintendent is one of the distinguishing factors of well-governed districts. But why is collaboration so important? The age of accountability has changed the role of the school boards. As a result, boards need to do more than make policy, sit back and oversee the superintendent. Boards need to work with the superintendent to find the right solutions, ask the right questions, and focus on the right issues.
Collaboration doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone agrees all the time. It is easier and less stressful for everyone, but it is not necessary. A thoughtful board president anticipates and plans for conflict. Well drafted policies and protocols keep the board focused and on task during board deliberations. The active practice of give and take that goes beyond simple information sharing in order build consensus is the end product of collaboration.
As an individual can you suspend your beliefs in order to hear others’ point of view?
Is your board able to deliberate on controversial matters and maintain a climate of trust and respect?
Does your community believe the board is working in a collaborative matter?
Twice a month as Board members we conduct a public meeting. These public meetings are snapshots for parents, community members and employees to evaluate how we operate as a team and how we are overseeing our mission to provide quality education in our community. So are the actions of your Board during your meeting enhancing your trustworthiness?
Civility towards each other, staff and the audience is the standard by which we need to measure the conduct of our meetings. In this case our actions are far more important than our intent. While it maybe easy to all agree to a norm of being civil or respectful toward each other, it is far harder to exercise civility when advocating for a position you are passionate about. Focusing on the issue rather than the person is one of the steps toward finding common ground for civil discourse.
With the failure of governmental oversight at all levels, transparency is becoming the buzzword of the day. In our role of as directors we need to constantly challenge ourselves to improve the transparency of our meetings. Transparency can start with the creation of an agenda that clearly states what each agenda item is about. Spelling out the acronyms of the institutional jargon and adding context in the background description of the agenda item will enhance community understanding. Finally, making electronic copies available of as much of the agenda that your school district infrastructure can support will provide type of anywhere, anytime access that the public is coming to demand.
While the conducting of Board meetings can become normal and routine for us as Board members, recognize that many individuals maybe attending their first Board meeting. As a result, we can not assume the public is fully aware of the topics and the context of the items we are going to discuss.
Filed under: Board Dynamics, Team Dynamics, Trust
In our role as a school board member have you ever wished for a place where you could reflect on being a school board member? A place where you collaborate with other school board members? A place to grow and learn to be a more effective board member?
Stephen Covey Sr defines effectiveness lying in the balance between P/PC balance. P stands for production of desired results. PC stands for production capability, the ability or assets that produces the desired results. Applied to school boards, effectiveness lies in our ability to improve student achievement while balancing the needs of students, employees and the community.
The governance team consists of the elected board members and the Superintendent. Individually, each of us provides our own set of values, beliefs and expertise. Collectively, our ability to agree on a common mission and extend trust by designing and aligning systems to oversee public education in our community will determine our effectiveness as a governance team.
With you active participation we can create a professional learning community that increases the effectiveness of our local governance team.