Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Thanks to Danuta Wilson for attending this off-camera Board of Education meeting and forwarding her notes to us!
6/20/2012 Montgomery County Board of Education Work Session
Richard Montgomery High School
The discussions on monitoring student achievement centered around the role of data and its quality.
Board members were in agreement that data has to be meaningful and relevant. Chris Barclay stated that if the data that they receive is not fully understood by the Board members it does not matter whether or not they get it at all. In order to improve the quality of data the data request process needs to be revised. There has to be an improvement in the ability to use data analysis to guide Board decisions. Kauffman thought that it would be helpful to have a person with a level of expertise to help the Board analyze data to make it more meaningful. A dialogue with the Superintendent to achieve that goal is key.
According to Chris Barclay better understanding of data would enable the Board, for example, to advocate better with the County Council in budget negotiations and will help the Board be more successful at articulating its vision within the community.
The Board then moved on to reviewing the quality of discussion that occurs when committee reports are presented to the Board. Phil Kauffman stated that when the topic has been so heavily worked on in the committee it appears that the Board is just rubber stamping. “Can we make changes at the Board table” – he pondered. Judith Docca illustrated this by giving an example of the strategic planning committee where the entire Board is not sitting at the table to discuss some very important items.
Michael Durso thought that the Board needs to give itself permission to ask questions to prevent rubber stamping. Pat O’Neill suggested that perhaps if the item is important to all the Board members it should be discussed by the full Board not just at the committee level.
After lunch, the discussion centered around the topic of public engagement and communication. Dr. Starr stressed that community engagement is an important function of the Board. Chris Barclay expressed his concern about the difficulty of reconciling so many responsibilities of Board members and that fact that this is supposed to be part time work. O’Neill pointed out there are many additional external pressures and demands on board members which requires their time.
Questions were raised about ways that the Board should communicate with the public. It was pointed out that the Communication and Public Engagement Committee was created several years ago to play that role. Phil Kauffman wondered when and how the Board should be engaging in discussion with the community. Should the Board be responding to criticism from the County Council? Should the Board be ignoring it? What should be expected of the Board?
Shirley Brandman agreed that the Board has to create more opportunities for public engagement, and to form partnerships with communities. The issue of cluster meetings came up at which point Board members discussed the role of such meetings. Should it be an opportunity to form relationships, to listen or an opportunity to clarify the role of the Board. Pat O’Neill thought that the cluster meetings can only be effective if the principal and community superintendent are present. The Board cannot micromanage. Shirley Brandman suggested that Board members can prepare for such cluster meetings ahead of time and be more proactive.
Shirley Brandman also addressed the lack of a process for bringing up topics that come up through public comment. How should the Board react? Laura Berthiume wondered if a Board member who thinks this is important should trigger action. Patricia O’Neill cautioned that any issues that come up are likely to take a lot of time and it was important to be respectful of staff time.
Shirley Brandman is setting up an ad hoc committee to look at this process.
Posted by Janis Sartucci at 10:33 PM