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There are many responsibilities that we, as community members, entrust to our Board of Education. These policies are a collaboration of the Michigan Association of school boards, the Board of Education, and district staff. As we find ways to support each other and our schools in a positive and productive manner, I’d like to highlight a few areas that are in need of community attention.
Communication: The board is responsible for providing adequate and direct means for keeping the community informed and for keeping informed about the wishes of the public. They must also maintain effective communication with staff and students.
How does our board comply with this responsibility?
In a letter read from the board president during the October 12, 2015 board meeting, she stated to administrators and staff “if you do not think you can work for the current administration, you are free to seek employment elsewhere.” An example of the “my way or the highway” culture prevalent in our district.
When asked to elaborate on decisions/opinions during BOE meetings, the typical response is “the superintendent will get back to you on that.” When provided the opportunity to have exit interviews with the administrators that have left the school district, the BOE response was “No, thank you.” Are they afraid of the truths that information might reveal? The decisions to not respond and not seek truths are irresponsible and inconsistent with BOE policy.
Financial resources: The board is responsible for exercising control over district finances to assure proper use of and accounting for all funds. Further the employment of consultants requires board approval.
According to the latest budget amendment approved by the Board of Education on February 22, 2016 it was reported projected net change in fund balance of $808,988. Of this, over $180,000 was spent on legal services, consultants, and financial advisors. Over 25 percent of the increase in expenses, approved by our BOE was spent on external consultants. How does this compare to the last ten years? It seems readily apparent that our current leaders need a significant amount of guidance.
School Superintendent: The superintendent is responsible for the management of schools under board policies and is the only employee of the district accountable to the BOE. The BOE is to provide sufficient and adequate guidance for implementing policy.
From all outward appearances, I suspect our BOE has misinterpreted the policy and believe they are the ones receiving guidance and direction. A leader with a strong personality does not relieve you of your obligations. A leader who is not held accountable by established checks and balances is called a dictator. For the sake of our district, you cannot be puppets responding to the pull of a string.
Steve C Harper, Algoma Township