Saturday, April 20, 2019

Should Board Member visit classroom?

At a recent School Board meeting, one of the Board members said she wanted to visit a classroom. There had been a presentation that evening about the Gifted & Talented Program, and the Trustee asked who the teachers were in the G&T Program.

The presenter paused, oh, so briefly, before stating that the teacher's names were in the material that had been submitted for the meeting's Board packet. If the Board member had read the electronic packet before the meeting, she would have seen the names.

I wanted to compliment the presenter for keeping a straight face and for not ducking the question. I was reminded of the Navy Admiral who sat patiently while Congressman Hank Johnson repeatedly said in a U.S. House sub-committee hearing that he was afraid that the island of Guam might tip over, if too many Navy personnel were stationed on one side of the island. How that Admiral ever kept a straight face, I do not know.

Now, should a Board member visit a classroom?

My immediate thought is No. If the Board member wonders what is happening in a classroom, the right path is to ask the Superintendent. He'll get the answer. Board members are decision-makers in charge of millions of dollars in assets and thousands of students. Sitting in one class for a few minutes "to see how things work" is not in their job description.

Liken this to a member of a Board of Directors of a large corporation. There is no way that a Director would ever go, or should be allowed to go, into a department within the corporation and visit/or inspect operations. And there is no need for it.

Besides, that Director has a job elsewhere. As does the curious trustee of the School District. And that job is at a different school in a different school district.

If the inquisitive trustee has time to visit a classroom and the Board approves, let the Superintendent choose the classroom and probably accompany the trustee. Let him choose a "difficult" classroom with high discipline problems, not a G&T classroom. Find out what many teachers are really dealing with during the school day. And sit in the back, quietly and unobtrusively. If the visitor is introduced, the teacher should merely say, "We have a visitor today" and move on. No special treatment.

A school board trustee is properly involved in governance, not administration.

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