Friday, May 9, 2014

Invitation to Sound Off

Section 1 of Dr. White's Contract with D181 states:

"Employment - The SUPERINTENDENT is hereby hired and retained from May 5, 2014 through June 30, 2014 as Co-Superintendent, and thereafter, from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2017 as the Superintendent of Schools for the School District. From May 5, 2014 through May 26, 2014, the SUPERINTENDENT shall work on a per diem basis as determined by the Parties. From May 27, 2014 through June 30, 2017, the SUPERINTENDENT shall assume full-time responsibilities and duties." (Dr. White's employment contract, emphasis added)

We take this contract language to mean that since Dr. White is still (we have checked) employed full time at Troy District 30C, between now and May 27, he is sharing duties with Dr. Schuster through May 26.  But what does it mean that he is only going to serve as Co-Superintenent from May 27 through June 30, 2014 while assuming full-time responsibilities and duties?

Does this mean that he will be working WITH Dr. Schuster for his first month?  Does this mean that he will not be authorized to make all decisions without collaborating with her and both mutually agreeing to every decision?  Does this mean that his hands will be tied, for lack of a better phrase, from being the sole educational leader in D181?

The BOE has not voted on any revisions to Dr. Schuster's current contract.  Under the terms of her existing contract, she is serving as THE superintendent and not as Co-Superintendent.  There is clearly now a conflict between the language of the two "Superintendents'" contracts. (Click to open Schuster's Contract.)

To our knowledge, never before has a new superintendent come in, been paid a full time salary, and shared his responsibilities and duties with the outgoing, full time salaried superintendent, even if only for 1 1/2 months.  It has never been deemed necessary, and just because the pension law change prompted (as BWP search firm anticipated) the new superintendent to start work in D181 prior to May 31, 2014 in order to take advantage of the changes, is there really a need for 2 superintendents?

So we are inviting our readers to SOUND OFF on the following 3 questions:

1.  When Dr. White assumes his FULL TIME responsibilities and duties on May 27, 2014, what should happen to Dr. Schuster?  Should she be allowed to continue working on site at D181 as the Superintendent (with different goals and responsibilities set forth in her contract as those in Dr. Whites)?

2.  Since Dr. Schuster initiated and tendered her resignation effective June 30, 2014, and it was mutually agreed to by both her and the BOE, with the result being that she does not need to pay the district $20,000 to cover the costs of the search for her replacement (See Section 29 of Schuster's Contract), if SHE leaves on May 26, 2017, should the BOE pay her salary from May 27 through June 30.

3.  What three issues would you like Dr. White to focus on between May 27, 2014 and August 21, 2014 which is the first student attendance day for the 2014-2015 school year?

We look forward to hearing your answers to these questions.


Anonymous said...

As a parent who has seen my children's MAP scores decline for the past 3 years, I would like to see Dr White present the Spring MAP results. I don't need to hear Russell and Schneider's spin on the results. I want honesty regarding the district results. It's long overdue.

HMS Parent said...

Answer 1: Schuster needs to leave on or before May 27. Dr. White is highly qualified and doesn't need a "primer" from Dr. Schuster. He's been a superintendent in multiple districts and doesn't need to work with with Dr. Schuster once he is here full time.

Answer 2: The board will no doubt pay her thru June 30. Should they? No. Dr. Schuster chose to quit one year early and cut a sweet deal with the BOE to not have to pay back the search firm fees of $20,000. She shouldn't work one day after Dr. White starts full time and therefore, should not be paid. But this is a board that doesn't enforce contracts as written. They should have made her pay the $20,000 just like they should be making Russell and Eccarius pay back 100% of the tuition reimbursement $ they were paid to get their PHD's since they are both leaving within one year of their last reimbursement payment. The language of their contracts is clear as a bell, but the BOE is being snuckered into not demanding full payment. They will probably not even try and avoid paying Schuster for one full month that she won't and shouldn't be working here once the new superintendent comes on board full time. Her base is $220K right now, so one month's salary is about approximately $18,333. So the district's will be out a total of over $100,000 as a result of this -- in my opinion -- misappropriation of funds by these three administrators! (Approximately $35K from Russell, $35K from Eccarius and $38K from Schuster).
3. Things Dr. White should address before August 21 -- a. Ask for performance data on the L4A plan and its impact on each student. b. Ask for independent outside audit to determine whether D181 is aligned in math and language arts with Common Core requirements. c. Do a top down management audit to see if the central office is overstaffed. d. Hire an experienced, qualified Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, not just a newbie.

Anonymous said...

I want him to turn on the a/c! It is an unsafe learning environment!!!!

jay_wick said...

Part 1 of 2
Very mixed feelings toward several points that this post brings up.

First I am sympathetic to the situation that any transferring school administrator is facing due to the rule changes that the legislature is enacting -- these things are not the fault of any of the local school boards nor the administrative staff that is effected. This is 100% driven by the folks in Springfield that seem to go out of their way to do things that hit people in the suburban areas and downstate right in their wallet!
I very much doubt that if the pension funds were under the control of a non-partisan authority that used sound actuarial estimations we would have this kind of mess on our hands but that is really a whole different ball of wax...

I don't have any problem with the work around that the BOE seems to have resorted to -- the outgoing superintendent won't cost the district any significant penalty, the incoming superintendent will get the funding they expect for their benefits. The contract has been properly disclosed. This is hopefully a "one time" thing and trying to be stickler for even a sound principle is at this point rather silly. There are far more costly problems for the BOE to deal with and for concerned community members to focus on.

When it comes the role of the outgoing superintendent in the unusual period of "overlapping" with the new superintendent I can envision this being worked out in a respectful and productive way -- there are more than enough details in the district that Dr. White will need to quickly come up to speed on that any help he can get in that transition ought to be invaluable to whole community. In some ways this is the "ideal" in this kind of a situation. Even in corporate settings when there is an orderly transition things go better for the incoming leader, the rest of the hierarchy and the organization as a whole. For any of the people that directly report to new leader they ought to be smart enough to differentiate between procedures that will wrap-up with the departure of the outgoing superintendent and the continuation / launch of any initiatives under the new leader.

What issues should be the on shortlist for the incoming superintendent? Really I have to go back to the post that I linked to from Illinois Association of School Boards. Good school boards know the difference between governance (which is their job) and management (which is the administration’s job) and place a high priority on respecting that difference.
Good school boards make every effort to operate openly by encouraging public attendance at their meetings and keeping constituents informed of the district’s progress.
Good school boards enact major policies only after all sides of the matter have been studied and all persons or groups affected have been consulted. Many boards provide for public hearings before enacting new policies.

Good boards attempt to reach decisions that all members can support.
Good boards are efficient. This means that their procedures for conducting business are appropriate to their needs and that they do not waste time on trivia.
Good boards know they are in the business of education. They talk about education, study the needs of students and society, and base their decisions on those needs.

Anonymous said...

No need to keep Schuster. She needs to leave, the sooner the better.

Anonymous said...

Heard a rumor that Schneider has a job offer. For the sake of all D181 children, I hope its true.

Anonymous said...

Priorities for Dr. White:
Hire an Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum.
Hold a town hall meeting.

Elementary parent said...

Data, data, data. Please Dr. White, ask for the data!

jay_wick said...

Part 2 of 2

I would be saddened if Dr. White did not quickly make plans to hold both daytime and evening opportunities to meet the whole community and hear all their concerns. I would hope he would quickly bring those concerns back to the BOE and ask that they be discussed openly but within a framework of efficiency. A well crafted meeting should include sufficient background material and data so that sound policies are adopted. The summer work schedule already approved by the BOE ought to allow Dr. White to begin work on many pressing matters before the start of school.
To be sure there are some matters that literally cannot wait until school reconvenes; I would be very surprised if things like in-service training were not already brought up. Frankly I hope that is something that is currently being discussed as part of the negotiations of the BOE and teachers.

I suspect that if Dr. White has been effective in his previously employment he will have experience in how to address coming changes brought on with adopting Common Core standards. The necessary policies to support not just minimal compliance but a positive response that helps all our students to the highest levels of mastery as quickly as possible would seem to be a obvious priority.

There are many areas in which the BOE has 'punted' -- there is no clear direction for our district when it comes to technology. The BOE seemed unsatisfied with proposals previously offered up but has not really given clear direction as to what is desired. I suspect beyond the cost there is a lack coherence in how both the BOE and district staff sees technology. Should it be one tool that teachers can utilize or part of a range? Should there be focus on leveraging the newest tools even when other methods may be just as effective in reaching mastery of content but perhaps not as modern? Is there value in having a staff that is well versed in the most modern technologies? Frankly none of the BOE members seem to be eager to articulate any such position...

When it comes to even stickier matters of policy there has been an even greater demonstration of BOE members having the appearance of either utter cluelessness or perhaps just a palpable unwillingness to publicly comment on substantive policies. Should the district go beyond the norm in stamping out any kind of ability grouping? Should there be a policy of the district having expanded foreign language offerings? Should the district have clear policies for acceleration? Should the district have policies of minimal taxation? What policies guide the budgeting process? What are the appropriate policies to ensure all students are in adequate facilities? What are the appropriate measures of success for district staff? A real leader will not allow even weak willed elected officials to leave these items off the agenda. These things must be dealt with. If the BOE either seeks out policies of other districts or is given appropriate background material to formulate their own policies then the superintendent can act on these matters.

If one reads biographies of effective leaders from any field one is bound to find many commonalities -- proactive, truthful, dedicated, flexible, consistent. Anyone that has experience working within the structure of an elected BOE, especially one that serves a demanding community, ought to be eager to hear the concerns of the community and quickly tackle issues to build a base of support. There are many opportunities for Dr. White to demonstrate he wants to do his best work here. I sincerely believe he can succeed.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Schuster should leave on or before 5/27/14. Don't pay her. Dr. White needs to hire experienced Asst. Sup. of Curriculum.

Yvonne Mayer, D181 Parent and Former Board of Education Member said...

Thank Jay Wick for another detailed and thoughtful commentary, but I beg to differ on one point. As mentioned in an earlier comment, $100,000 is a lot of money. It should be collected from and not paid out to three administrators who have chosen to leave of their own accord. Instead, this money should be spent for the direct benefit of the D181 students.

jay_wick said...

The "insubstantial penalty" that I was referring was to only in regard to the situation of having two superintendents overlapping. Others have calculated this sum to be "approximately $18,333". Hardly loose change in the sofa, but I suspect if the district used competitive bidding for every expenditure (instead just those that are too big to hide) annual savings would be 10x or more such a sum...

In regards to the situation with the other departing administrators and even the "search firm penalty" I tend to agree that waiving language in existing employments contracts unilaterally is bad policy.

Unfortunately bad policies seem to be de riguere for our BOE. While on one level I believe focusing on errors that the BOE seems to have "closed the books on" is futile, I do appreciate your diligence in tracking the "running tab" for these kinds of things.

I know that even under lax rules of the State of Illinois for competitive bidding things can be easily subverted by keeping contracts under $25,000, declaring them only to be filled by "specialized" contractors, or simply saying it is was "non-routine". All such methods, while technically legal, drive up the cost of running the district without providing any real benefit to students or community members. Contracts, Bids and Proposals |

I've spent the better part of a quarter century watching how elected bodies routinely subvert attempts for honest accounting of taxpayer funds. I've noisily made my objections known in cases where the sums were orders of magnitude larger and it sickens me that so few people care, especially when these dollars could be going toward efforts that have a proven track record of helping students reach their full potential but that too is an argument for another time...

Anonymous said...

Are you all so sure that the administrators AREN"T paying back the tuition they were reimbursed for furthering their education?! There is a good chance you are all wrong about that. Further research is really needed about this before more negative comments are made.

Yvonne Mayer, D181 Parent and Former Board of Education Member said...

I have personally spoken to a reporter who made inquiries and was told by the administration that only 50% would be paid back. I have written to the whole BOE and asked them to publicly state whether they will be asking for 100% repayment. I received no written response. I have personally spoken to three board members and discussed the contract language which was put in place during my tenure on the BOE and been told only 50% will be repaid. If there has been a change in this plan, then the BOE should say so. It is public knowledge that I opposed tuition reimbursement while I was a D181 board member. I continue to oppose it and will continue to advocate for the repayment provisions to be enforced as written. It is a shame that the current board cares so little about recouping hard earned tax payer dollars.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Ms. Mayer that the tuition $ should be repaid in full. The community paid $ so administrators would get EdD's (not PhD's) but did so with the expectation that they would stay for the long haul in our district. They have chosen to leave and not fulfill their end of the bargain. Only in this District with this board is taxpayer $ so carelessly spent without recourse.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to add thatDr. White should get rid of all remaining tuition reimbursement contracts and never present another one to the board for approval.

Anonymous said...

Just checked board docs. There is a parent survey which I applaud. But please boe add satisfaction questions. We have been asking for this!!! And why nothing on class size, foreign language and full day kindergarten?

Anonymous said...

I just read the parent survey. Good job on the tutoring questions. But please also add to the question parents tutoring their children themselves and not just professional tutors. Also, we have had drastic changes to the curriculum but the BOE and admin have not asked parents how satisfied they are with the changes. Please ask satisfaction questions on the following topics: math instruction, ELA instruction, writing instruction, groupings for math and ELA, science instruction, IEP services, advanced learning services, foreign language offerings, technology in the classroom, class sizes, the time length of kindergarten, the amount of standardized tests our kids take, the number of substitute teachers in the classroom, and our preparedness for common core. Those are the questions parents want to answer, not yet again more SELAS questions. Enough with the SELAS, ask about Learning for All and find out what the community thinks once and for all.

Yvonne Mayer, D181 Parent and Former Board of Education Member said...

Part 1 of 2: Here is an email I just sent to the BOE and Dr. White. I hope they address these issues on Monday night.

Dear Board of Education Members and Dr. White:

I do not know if I will be able to attend the May 12 BOE meeting and make a public comment on 2 agenda items, so I am sending this letter to you in advance to ask that you address my questions below during the meeting.

Parent Survey:
1. I am very disappointed that only a couple questions are included regarding the current curriculum and that no "true" satisfaction questions or opportunity to "comment" on the Learning for All Plan are included. Yes, you do include a "comment question" but it is general in nature as to "academics" and could have been more focused.
2. After repeated requests from concerned parents over the last year, and myself (as a former school board member) to conduct a meaningful satisfaction survey, as well as YOUR representations last fall during a BOE meeting that you would conduct do so this spring, I am concerned that this survey (at least the questions on curriculum) does not provide the community with a real opportunity to give you feedback.
3. Please add additional, more focused questions regarding the Math acceleration for all model, language arts, Opt-in option (has it resulted in watering down classes for high achievers) and lowering the "competency standard" to only 70% for students to remain in an advanced or accelerated class. Please add a specific question as to whether or not parents in each of the elementary grades want the district to offer GRADE LEVEL math instruction as a separate class that is aligned to common core standards, rather accelerating all students ONE GRADE LEVEL BEYOND the Common Core grade level standards. Please add questions regarding the desire for full day kindergarten, increased foreign language options and the excessive use of substitute teachers (in order that teachers can attend district meetings and serve on committees).
4. Also, unless you are planning on conducting a second satisfaction survey, you have not included any questions where parents can express their satisfaction with Central Office administrators that they have interacted with. If you want to really find out what people think and work on improving relationships and educational services for our students and parents , please add questions regarding these staff.

Yvonne Mayer, D181 Parent and Former Board of Education Member said...

Part 2 of 2: Letter to BOE and Dr. White continued:

Policy Revisions: I have reviewed the policies that are being proposed for revision at Monday's meeting.
1. This is the first time that I recall that the policies being changed have not been red-lined in a way that people can actually see what is being proposed for deletion or addition. Why this lack of transparency?
2. I compared Policy 2:110 to the proposed revision. In order to do so, I had to keep flipping back and forth between the Current Policy (that could be found under the Policies tab on Board Docs) and the proposed new Policy (that was included in the May 12 Board Docs tab) in order to figure out what the changes are. People should be able to see the proposed changes in a transparent fashion when they read the Board Docs for the upcoming meetings. They should not have to go hunting for the original policy and then compare the versions word for word in order to figure out what the actual proposed language changes are.
3. This is particularly important with respect to Policy 2:110 since it is proposing the Elimination of Term Limits for the Board Officers. Under the current policy, which has been in force since at least October 2010, the officers were limited to serving a maximum of 2 years in any particular office. Term limits have become the norm, so it seems unusual and quite frankly, concerning, that D181's BOE is going in the opposite direction.
4. In the interest of transparency, during the 5/12 BOE meeting, please conduct a meaningful discussion on this policy during which you explain to the community whose idea it was to eliminate term limits, what the rationale is for this proposed change and why each of you individually support or oppose this change.

Respectfully submitted,

Yvonne Mayer
D181 Parent, Taxpayer and Former School Board Member (2009-2013)

Anonymous said...

Well, well. Isn't interesting that now the board seems to be in a honeymoon phase, we have King Turek and co. trying to push through term limits for officers. It will be interesting to see how Dr. White handles this dysfunctional crew as well as the ridiculous survey Schuster is trying to approve as her one of her last hurrahs before she packs up her office. Let's hope Dr. White is at the board meeting on Monday and weighs in on this foolishness.

Anonymous said...

Looks like teachers in District 155 in Crystal Lake filed an open meetings act violation against the board.

Why doesn't this ever happen in the D181 community? Considering all the stuff that happens in the district, I'm surprised no has done this yet.

jay_wick said...

Why are there not more fillings for violations of Open Meetings Act?

The round-about way of answering this is to ask: What is the antonym of "disgruntled"? Webster's list "content" -- for the most part, too many community members (and probably a fairly large percentage of the district's staff...) are simply not outraged enough over the conduct of the BOE / direction of the district. They are content with the way things are being handled.

Of course the more complete answer is that even if there was reason to believe that the procedures the BOE engages in to avoid hashing out polices in the presence of the public is a technical violation of the law there is nothing that would "undo" such actions. Generally the appropriate attorneys send the elected body a "strongly worded letter" and maybe if there is a particularly egregious violation impose a fine.

Not exactly the stuff that changes the trajectory of a BOE that is uninterested in actually being held accountable.

Perhaps what needs to happen is instead of suggestions that state lawmakers weaken things like FOIA rules is that more folks have to get fired up enough to ask our legislators to put more more power in the hands of regular citizens...

jay_wick said...


Part 1 of 2
For anyone that cares to listen to the BOE meeting it is up on the district’s podcasts — BOE Podcasts | Oddly still no sign of the L4A presentation. Oh well…. No need to rehash the whole meeting, not a whole accomplished. That said it is yet another interesting example of why folks get frustrated with how the BOE is run. The agenda seemed mostly light, as one might expect when there is transition from the outgoing superintendent to the new, but the fact there were inaccuracies in the agenda items points out how frustrating it can be for concerned parents / community members to figure out what the heck the BOE is trying to accomplish.

One particularly glaring problem was highlighted with the item concerning a substantial technology replacement. Not bad enough that there was confusion as to whether BOE needed to vote NOW on nearly $500K worth of replacement laptop computers (there was no such urgency …) but the BOE certainly did not seem even to have clarity on whether they were making a decision about an expenditure or a more strategic goal. Apparently folks on the BOE do not really even understand the difference between Mac Book Airs and iPads, let alone things like Chromebooks. My kids know the differences. Here are some simple summaries — Mac Book Air vs iPad Contrast that with -- Chromebook, cheaper, but not nearly as capable as Mac Book Different tools for different tasks…

In a pattern that is not at all uncommon for the BOE, the lack of a coherent meeting plan became painfully obvious. Discussion at about 45 minutes into the meeting drifted into talk of the BOE being unable / unwilling to budget for the training of district staff in appropriate usage of iPads in a “one-to-one” ratio with students. There was nothing but a quote / invoice for hardware. Sort of funny that this came after the BOE seemed glazed over by earlier discussion of revised budget for existing school year. The costs of unscheduled improvements at HMS put the budget nearly $2M out of whack, but through various fund transfers apparently all is well. Highlights the lack of any desire / interest / ability of BOE to actually repriortize things so that staff gets training. The majority of the BOE endorsed a sad status quo where the district “graciously accepts PTO / PTA gifts of hardware for student use after parents knock themselves out at fundraisers…

When asked for his general views on how to address these concerns, Dr. White wisely suggested beginning with considering the desired outcomes for in-class instructional experience. Wow. Imagine that, actually talking about educational end results! Looking forward to hearing more of that! Don't get me wrong -- I love all kinds of computer HW but unless staff has the right kind of environment, such HW won’t have much impact.

In their defense, district technology staff tried very diligently to help BOE understand the very different needs of teachers using laptops vs the “one-to-one” ratio of iPads for student use that is in limbo. Apparently the district has not yet “recycled” away any iPads, even first gen units that don’t run the most current apps. With an excellent record of reliability and a great deal of utility, that seems to make sense, but still one wonders what could be achieved if there were actual alignment between strategic goals, appropriate training and the kind of support that parents have demonstrated…

jay_wick said...

Part 2 of 2
Parents from the 181 Foundation reminded the BOE that the Foundation will pick up the tab for some staff training. The Foundation wants to support the incorporation of appropriate technology across the curriculum…

While this hardware refresh was for planned staff equipment, parent representative from the middle school pointed out that the computers there are notoriously old, and the PTO finds parents “burned out” from trying to privately handle fund raising for technology upgrades following the drumbeat of six years of requests to support elementary school initiatives. Apparently the district has an actual policy to replace all HW at least every four years, but the CHMS PTO parent believes older kids are often on machines nearly double that age. Not exactly great news for anyone that thinks a district like ours ought to be supplying students with the kind of equipment that would allow them to efficiently incorporate things like high quality video and other media into their presentations…

Sadly for as much time as the BOE spent on this discussion, it really seeming lacking in strategic clarity and mired in the vaguest concerns of cost / utility (as an aside, earlier in the meeting a parent told that BOE that it was her belief that things like failed referenda as far back as the 1990s were defeated because of things like confusion over appropriately sized schools NOT the actual finances — strongly implying that if a sound case were made community members would support any initiative, including a referendum for the November 2014 cycle; I am not so sanguine, but it is nonetheless an interesting perspective) Ultimately, after about 30 minutes of discussion on a matter that apparently could be tabled until after the new superintendent is fully up to speed, no action was taken. Knowing how these things often go, the next time this comes up it may very well be on a “consent agenda” to authorize the spending of nearly $500K, though as far as tonight’s meeting went, there was clearly no consensus as to what is the most pressing need -- to replace hardware, train staff or change direction….

Another amazing level of “micromanaging” was demonstrated as pretty nearly each BOE member weighed in on “tweaking” the wording of the questions for the satisfaction survey as well as the mechanics of how folks might be actually take the survey. While I know it is impossible to operate on a purely ‘policy setting level” this strikes me as a another pretty clear example of what happens when the BOE is under prepared / not supplied with the material they need from staff to make a reasonable decision. How much more efficent could these meetings be if staff laid out ahead of time a few alternatives? Part of me is flat out shocked that no more than one of the BOE members said anything like “well my neighbors / kids’ classmates parents have already said _ _ _ _ and I’d really like to know how pervasive that view is.” Apparently most of our BOE members are rather detached from the concerns of other parents / community members. Not that prior surveys have resulted in a plethora of input, apparently responses for past efforts have been just a few hundred. Further evidence of complacency? Apathy? Resignation?

What seemed like it might hold the potential for some differences of opinion regarding revisions to the official district policy manual quickly become another footnote to the meeting. The “service” that the district retains to provide suggested revisions did not supply the familiar “redlined” drafts. After a BOE discussion of splitting up the work to match old against new, Dr. White graciously suggested to supply such marked-up changes for the BOE to review at a later date. Apparently the district he is leaving has also been burned by this services that do not supply documents in a format that is appropriately usable. Ah the efficiency of Illinois!

BOE retreated to "Executive Session". Wonder how contractor negations are rolling along?

The Parents said...

Mr. Wick: We had some technical difficulties posting your comments, but seem to have resolved them. We were impressed with your summary of last night's meeting. Can we have your permission to post your summary as a free standing post? The Parents

jay_wick said...

It would be fine with me if the summary was its own post. You can tack this on too --

I remains my sincere hope that more people make an effort to understand why the district is not making progress -- the BOE seems to be completely out-of-sync.

I don't know if there is a need for a town meeting or a "retreat" or just someone that has the ability to help focus things, but when one listens to a meeting like last night one can understand why so little progress has been made on so many pressing issues. It could literally be an "anti-model" of what happens when a "deliberative body" is not given the proper framework to make decisions.

If staff would recognize that too many of the elected members do not seem to make any signficant preparation prior to the meeting maybe there needs to be more time spent literally laying out "choice A, B , or C". While I am not a big fan of being a stickler for Robert's Rules of Order, there needs to be some formality in making motions and weighing the consequences of major expenditures. To use last night as an example, the staff perhaps could have laid out rationale for spending money to get new technology hardware for staff (there was a verbal mention that older hardware is slowing down some task for staff), or at least inlcuded a reference to previously approved policies. Ideally I would hope staff also tries to include a more comprehensive plan on how such expenditures fit with what one hopes is an approved overall direction for technology. Maybe alternatives or "consequences of inaction" could have been laid out too. Instead the discussion devolved into a rather incoherent set of fears that really were only tangentially related to the hardware...

Ideally I believe that it is better to create a range of alternatives in open meetings of sub-committees that include distict leadership, staff, parents and community members. If there is concensus in those settings the full BOE meetings would be MUCH smoother and the likeliood of coherent policies much greater. Of course the risk is that any transition to such a system of sub-committees risks upsetting folks that have grown accustomed to BOE meetings going on & on....
Instead the BOE could focus on its rightful role -- hashing out and articulating a consistent set of polices that improves education for all the students in the district.

One could certainly imagine that a little creativity in using podcasts or even teleconferences ought to give folks the opportunity to be aware of where appropriate frameworks / options are developed. If staff includes things like benchmarks from other districts as well as data that illustrates the trade-offs of each alternative the BOE would not be mired in their current fog.