By Sarah Ostergaard
It is inevitable that questions, concerns, problems crop up and schools are no exception. Where should one go for answers? The next few articles in a series will turn to our layers of government, exploring which entities do what and whom to contact with an education concern. First up: school board.
The main purpose of a school board is to create policy. Policy focuses long-term on the vision of an organization, serving to guide the superintendent and district leadership in the creation and implementation of procedures for day-to-day operations. School boards guide the long term success – or drive toward failure – of a school district by providing governance through policies and administrative rules. School boards oversee the superintendent, who issues operational procedures to carry out the board’s policies.
Our school board members are elected in nonpartisan elections to work with each other to craft policies for the greater long-term benefit of the community’s schools. A board creates policies; an organization implements the policies by establishing operational procedures. Policy-making is purposefully slow and follows a predictable process. Creation or revision of school board policies requires at least two public meetings and a majority vote by the school board as a whole. In comparison, operational procedures can be implemented or revised much more quickly.
It is essential to remember that policy focuses on long-term solutions and stays away from crisis management.
School boards also perform some quasi-judicial functions, but do not have general judicial powers like a court does. The school board hears grievances between staff and from the public but is not intended to be the finder of fact. Although the board will settle the personnel grievances when appropriate, Policy GBK directs that personnel grievances be resolved “at a level as close as possible to their point of origin.” Regarding public complaints, Policy KE states, “Complaints to one or more board members… will be referred to the superintendent for investigation, appropriate action or recommendation as the situation might justify.”
It might appear quicker to go straight to the top to get the issue resolved or contact an individual board member who seems sympathetic to an issue. But that usually muddies the waters before clear facts have been figured out, making the facts more difficult to ascertain and a solution more difficult to find. It also erodes overall trust as answers are demanded from those unable at that point to provide solutions, meanwhile public opinion swells on one side or the other, high on emotion and assumptions.
A concerned person with a question or problem should start by meeting with the person closest to the problem first. Contact the teacher, staff member, or principal directly to seek clarification, mutual understanding, and effective resolution before escalating the issue.
Not every problem will be resolved to everyone’s liking. This is a difficult truth.
Policy and quasi-judicial proceedings are not meant to be subject to shifting political winds but provide steadfast guidance for district leadership to run our schools. Public schools serve everyone in our community, whether directly (students who attend) or indirectly (everyone else). Schools create the next generation of leaders, workers, caregivers. Schools greatly contribute to the economic well being of an area and can serve to grow the community well into the future.
The policies that guide LexRich5 Schools are available online. Please take the time and read them as an informed citizen in our community. To find the board policies, please visit https://www.lexrich5.org/schoolboard and select “Board Policies” from the drop down menu.