58. The Board of Education’s Verdict

The board of education endorses the curriculum council’s proposal to implement the new learning infrastructure. Ken and Rebecca, working with board members Vernon and Byron, participated in approving the proposal. So did two community members.

Board approval was almost a foregone conclusion.

Original worries Ken had about state policies and accreditation dictates softened. So did his concerns about potentially poor student scores on standardized high stakes tests.

Ken long believed the financial carrot associated with compliance to external regulations was not worth much. Discretionary funds from federal and state sources are always welcome. But they come with too many strings attached.

Thumbing his nose at external pressure could have been a career killer. But now Ken’s district is building a case for using a proven alternative academic model. He is thinking about partnering with other superintendents and universities — to build a case for the new learning infrastructure.

It’s one thing to oppose outside-the-district pressure for purely personal or political reasons. But quite another thing if a strong case can be made for using a valid alternative process.

That strong case is a better way to educate children and young people. To make them American problem-solvers, entrepreneurs, innovators, and members of an interactive society. Doers and leaders. Not just a people who meet minimum expectations and comply with a stale status quo.

Ken Introduces a New Academic Program Governance Schematic

Making the new learning infrastructure work is dependent on the effectiveness of bylaws. To accept a new way of thinking about decision-making and action-taking authority.

With the help of consultants, I created a table of organization. It depicts the way decisions will be made in the district.

While the new schematic may not look remarkable, it is a significant departure from the standard decision-making structure. Like hospital administration, there is a split between the managerial and professional sides below the level of board and superintendent.

Operationally, the split does not mean separate leadership. What it does provide is greater concentration of authority in making decisions concerning what schools are for. Schools are for student learning. Yet boards and administrative teams spend inordinate amounts of time on issues like finance, personnel, facilities and other important, but merely support functions.

Like a company that concentrates so much on managerial needs it overlooks the product or service it was created to provide.

In the new table of organization, teachers play an important role. Administrators serve on both sides of the chart. Academic decisions are prevalent and encompassing of all professional stakeholders. As they should be.

One of the more challenging aspects of this new way of looking at district governance is the board itself. Citizens become candidates for board membership for many reasons. Even in positive times (unlike the pandemic era) issues arise that involve lengthy, sometimes rancorous debate.

Democracy at work. I accept it as the agent that carries out the board’s wishes.

But now I ask the board as a group, and each member, to constantly concentrate on what schools are for. To give as much time as possible to academic policy development and maintenance. 

Through the continuing education of members, and systematic allocation of meeting time to topics related to curriculum, instruction, and learning.

ORGANIZATION FOR ACADEMIC GOVERNANCE

All successful superintendents attempt to build a good relationship with their boards. They recognize that we serve multiple roles.

To be a professional resource, provide leadership, serve as a spokesperson as needed, and create conditions in which educators and citizens work together for the good of the community’s children and young people. 

Now we need to decide the next steps. Simple enough. Tell the curriculum council the process can move forward. Direct the administrative team to create a plan for informing parents and patrons.

The council under Rebecca’s leadership will meet to confirm decisions already made. To determine where they stand in meeting other expectations.

Rebecca and I met to go through a checklist. These actions are what is needed to be done at the council level:

  • Review the content and meaning of the academic decision-making bylaws approved by the board.
  • Examine the new table of organization. Make certain everyone on the council understands its meaning and implications involved.
  • Review the suggestions of the communications subject area committee in terms of their possible influence on the district and subject area mastery statements.
  • Review the suggestions of the communications subject area committee in terms of their possible influence on the long-range plan.
  • Begin discussion of how the district’s staff development should be modified in light of new expectations of current and new teachers.

Most of these actions are pro forma. Bylaws are in good shape. The table of organization aligns with bylaws’ provisions.

Mastery statements are broad. Possibly hard to translate into curricular outcomes. Outcomes that can be taught and assessed.

The long-range plan may need to be revised due to the communications committee’s recommendation to use an interdisciplinary approach. There is no hurry.

The biggest challenge is an efficient and effective way to write and teach the new learning infrastructure curriculum. Likely to be time-consuming, especially at the outset.

The commitment has been made. It is time for Barbara, Mary, and our consultants to create the new communications curriculum.

A curriculum that will serve as a stylistic model for all that follow.

©2022 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved

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