Wednesday, December 27, 2017

2017: A Year in Review

2017: A Year in Review

It is hard to believe that it has been a full year since I joined the TUSD Governing Board.  What have we accomplished since January 2017?!?

Transparency & Accountability.  We have received more detailed and accurate information about the goings-on in TUSD.  The news has not all been good, but that is because it has not been spun or manipulated.  We now know that we have a lot of work to do, and we know the areas in which we need the most work, including:

Effective, looped systems for:

o   Reliable District-Wide Communication

o   Raising Academic Achievement Levels and Closing the Achievement Gap (Response to Intervention and Unitary Status Plan fulfillment)

o   Professional Development

o   Discipline and Improving Student Conduct

o   Improving Employee Relations

o   Improving Student/Family/Employee (Customer) Service

I believe that a systems-thinking perspective (and implementing effective systems) would help us to achieve all of the above and more.  I also believe the Supt. agrees that systems-thinking is paramount if we are to improve.  Now we shall see if we can develop a common understanding of what systems-thinking is and what kinds of systems are most important to continuous improvement.

Board Dynamics.  Although our last meeting ended with some contention—the Board president actually refused to allow me to join the public debate on a matter to be voted upon—we have made some progress.  We do not often agree, but when our disagreements are joined by healthy debate, we have made good decisions together.  Most recently, for example, we voted to keep our Infant and Early Child Learning Centers open with a plan for how to ensure they do not drain our K-12 schools of resources and, instead, bring more resources into our schools.

Distrust continues to be an issue among Board members.  Our Board president cancelled a Board retreat scheduled for December 5.  “Retreat” is just a fancy name for a meeting during which we do not have to sit behind the dais and look at the audience, but can instead sit in a circle and focus on each other—with the goal of developing mutual trust and respect.  The suggestion in the media was that the meeting was cancelled because of poor Board dynamics.  Unfortunately, it is a retreat that would most help us to improve our dynamics, just as a well-presided over meeting would do a great deal to help us operate efficiently and effectively every other Tuesday night (give or take). 

The Salary Schedule.  As far as I am concerned, the salary schedule is lopsided and a bit twisted.  I believe that TUSD should pay our teachers as well as we possibly can, not encourage them to leave the classroom and go into administration or program coordination, etc. by offering higher salaries and more respect to those who are not working with children or in the schools.  School site personnel and those who work directly with our students (bus drivers, monitors, teaching assistants) are our priority and, therefore, they should receive the highest salaries.  I do not buy into the old-time hierarchical factory mentality that continues to haunt our schools, where the people who work the least are compensated the most.

Policy Review.  A policy review continues to be in the works.  I sent 51 policies I had revised or updated or wanted removed from policy altogether to TUSD’s General Legal Counsel in December 2016.  He then informed me:

“The Board is certainly the party which adopts policy.  In my experience, however, Boards rarely actually write the policy themselves – not to say that can’t be done; it certainly can be, of course.  For the past 25 years, I’ve been given direction by my Governing Boards to develop policies consistent with their expressed ideals, goals and interests (representing their community as they do), and then have been tasked with the writing function to ensure not only embodiment of their direction, but also their legality, compliance, etc.  In addition, the Board subscribes to the National/Arizona School Board policy system that provides policy support, including proforma samples also designed help ensure legality and compliance.

“Please do not misinterpret my mention of these facts.  I certainly feel no territorial control over policy development, and I will certainly support the policy development/writing process however the Board determines I should. 

“You have obviously done a lot of work already, and I look forward to reviewing your attachments.  Thank you again for sharing them with me.  Have a great holiday season.”

In November 2017, TUSD’s General Legal Counsel informed us that the legal department is undertaking a policy review/revision process, beginning with format enhancements.  Thus, policies now concisely state the general purpose of the policy in the margin for quick reference.  I look forward to working with the Board and staff to adopt more updated policies in 2018.

Sit & Chat.  My next Sit & Chat is on January 6, 2018 at noon at Maynard’s market downtown.  If you are available and would like to join us, please RSVP at: 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!  Here's to 2018  ;)  :D 

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