"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by...any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward [district], it is a belief against all experience." --Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Code of Conduct

The ASD Board of Education has a Code of Conduct.  I was told that the most important thing for me to do right now is to read and learn the Code of Conduct.  Please take a minute to review the Code of Conduct page, and give me your feedback here.  We will be discussing this Code in January.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Initial Meeting

Last Monday, I met with the Superintendent and the Board President. It was mostly a get-to-know-you meeting and then an overview of some of the responsibilities of a school board member.

Some of these are:
Twice monthly work sessions (4pm) and board meetings (6pm)

Tuesday morning tour and meetings: These are rotated among board members so there are only 2 or 3 board members present. Awards are given to a high performing team at the school, and then information is presented to the board members by the district officials. Minutes are taken at that meeting and passed around to the rest of the board members. In general, each board member will visit a school and participate in these meetings once each month.

Committee Meetings: There are about 18 committees and each board member will be on 3 or 4 of these. These assignments are made by the board president, but individual board members can express preferences for certain committees. I'm still trying to figure out what all of them are.  See the list of committees here.

Training session for new board members: The Utah School Boards Association hosts a training session (that will take place this year on Dec. 4).

Participation in a closed session of board meeting (Dec. 14): The board sometimes has closed sessions to discuss private matters, such as compensation, complaints, student issues, liabilities, etc. The new board members will be invited to attend this closed session to learn about the proceedings, but not take an active part, I assume.

Additional trainings and retreats were mentioned.

There was discussion about unity, keeping confidences, and the board's Code of Conduct. I was told that the most important thing I could do between now and January was to review and understand the Code of Conduct. I would appreciate your comments about this. Read the Code here.

Board members also receive some benefits. These are:
Internet Service, if requested
Laptop, if requested
Retirement benefits, if requested
Health Insurance, if requested
Compensation of $500/month that must be accepted. I will donate this amount.

In short, it was a nice meeting. Everyone was very positive and welcoming. That is very much appreciated.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Where Do We Go from Here?

I want to thank all of the volunteers who helped me win the election. I could not have done it without you. I also appreciate all the comments and questions from everyone who was interested in becoming an informed voter.

On Nov. 3, a group of interested parents met at my home to discuss ways to get parents more involved. Here are some of the ideas.

1. Create a rotating list of people to attend school board meetings and work sessions, video tape where possible, and summarize in an email to the group and on a blog. (This is in process. If you want to participate, stay tuned for more information.)

2. More parent expertise in the classrooms. One mom, a former English teacher, would like to volunteer in some of the English classes and help focus on writing skills: critiquing, encouraging, coaching, etc. If those parents with skills in a particular area were willing to work with specific teachers at different schools, there would be much greater ability and support for our teachers and the curriculum from the community at large. I encourage each of you to look at what your skills and talents are and volunteer them to your local school.

3. PTA and PTO organizations. A parent pointed out that some schools might want to consider forming a PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) instead of going through the PTA, as all the money raised would stay completely with that school, and there would be no outside pressure to conform to state or national requirements. It would truly be a local organization. A few parents have decided to look in to this idea.

4. Public Training. It was suggested that teacher training sessions be open to the public, perhaps on a rotating basis.

5. Communications from the district to the teachers, schools, etc. should be posted on the ASD website and available for public viewing.

6. Professional Learning Communities. The early-out Monday meetings at each school are open to the public. It was suggested that parents may want to rotate to attend some of these meetings at their individual schools.

7. School Community Councils and PTA. The School Community Councils (SCC) are a very important piece of the school organization. Until I started this campaign, I was pretty uninformed on the role and potential of the SCC's. In the Spring, each school will ask for volunteers to run for election to their own SCC. If you want to influence the direction of your school, SCC is the place to be. Currently, only those parents with children in that particular school can be on the SCC. The SCC is charged with determining the use of the school trust lands monies (about 1/2% of the local school's budget each year). The SCC and PTA organizations are also one of the most often used methods for communicating information from the community to the district. It is important for the SCC's to be as representative of the people as possible. I encourage you, if you have kids at the local district school, to get involved in the SCC. All meetings are open to the public.

Please comment either here or on Facebook with any additional suggestions you might have. Sometimes, all it take is one person's idea, to make a big difference.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

November 3: What now?

Remember what we said about November 3rd? Win or lose the task is the same for both you and me. Today we roll up our sleeves and get to work. This is our day. Yesterday was about who represents us. Today is about getting the job done regardless of who represents us. It’s time to get to work.

Before we start, I need to thank Chrissy Hannemann for her example and service for the past eight years. I never saw myself running against Chrissy. I always saw our campaign as simply saying to the Alpine School District “open up and encourage more participation and accountability”.

Anyone who knows Chrissy knows she has been one of the most consistent, hard-working members of the school board. Our real differences were few. We differed on how we would prioritize the goals, but not much about the goals themselves. Our approaches to achieving the goals are as individual as we are, but the end goal is the same. I have enjoyed getting to know Chrissy better through this process and I hope to continue an association with her as we go forward.

But as we have said through the campaign, this really is not about who is sitting on the school board. I am not na├»ve in thinking this. I understand the importance the school board plays in affecting education across the district. But I have more faith in the individual families that make up the district than I have in the district government itself. We get the level of government we deserve. Our being informed and involved sets the level of government we receive. Let’s not complain about “them”. Let’s stay involved and informed. It will improve the system.

The real work is done by the students, the families, teachers and principals. They are only supported by the district, school community councils, and PTA. I need to support you. It is your job to actually do the hard work. You can count on my support. Let’s start today.

The fact you are reading this, tells me you appreciate the importance of being involved in the process. I want us both to remember the greatest good comes from people like you being involved in their local schools. That means you need to participate on your local school community council and find ways to volunteer for your local school. Send me an email (wendy@wendyhart2010.com) and let me put you on our email list for participating in attending one or two (more if you like) school board meetings every year and giving the rest of the volunteers a synopsis.

I will continue this blog, the Facebook page and continue to share this conversation. I invite you to join me on this journey. Hold my feet to the fire. Support me when you think I am correct and challenge me when you do not agree. You will notice both the blog and Facebook offer the option of giving comments. I encourage you to take advantage of this feature. I hate lectures, but enjoy conversations and debates. Right now, this is a lecture and only you can make it a conversation.

One more thing to ask…we need more people like you. Get at least one other person involved in school community council, volunteering, and participating in being informed on the issues. More of you and your involvement is what will make this good district the best it can be.

We have a meeting tonight at my house at 7pm. I would love for you to be there. Ensuring we have the best district possible will require work. Many hands make light work. I only ask for one hour. It is November 3rd. It is our day to not just make our voices heard, but our presence felt.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Today, I won't ask for your vote

The day before an election it is wise and customary for a candidate to make a final push for votes. All the expenses and countless hours of meeting people, developing campaign material, finding volunteers comes down to whether voters show up in significant numbers and vote to put the candidate in office.

That’s why today I am not going to ask for your vote on November 2nd. I am asking you to do something for me on November 3rd.

Today I want you to understand that this election is not about me, it is about you. The result of the election is important but not as important as what is possible with your involvement. “Of the people, by the people and for the people” is never more true than when referring to local government. The involvement of the people must be at a level sufficient to counterbalance the inherent weaknesses of government.

That brings me to my final point (of six): site based management (promote more local control at each school). It is number six on my list but the concept behind it makes it the most important issue of all. The idea is that each school should be run with the guidance of local families with the goal of fulfilling the expectations and needs of those families.

How is that done? It is accomplished by having a proactive group of people who will be involved and then get more people involved. School community councils can have a large influence in setting individual school curricula and policies. There are opportunities to volunteer in the school and with the PTA. By being involved, your voice is not only heard, but you have the opportunity to actually make a difference with your investment of time.

Once you are involved, you are in a much better position to help others get involved. If enough people get involved with their local schools, the positive changes start to work upward to the district level. As a people, we believe that bottom up governance is better than top down. But it only works if enough people are involved. Otherwise, government gets top heavy and heavy handed.

The most important good that can come from this election isn’t who is going to serve on the school board next. The greatest good would be a large number of families in each school getting more involved...serving on community councils, volunteering in classrooms, and getting to know the teachers and principals.

Sure, there are important decisions that pass through the school board which affect all the schools in the district. It is important to have people we can trust to represent our views to the district and not the district’s views to us. But more importantly, we must all accept the responsibility to personally be involved in making the necessary commitment to ensure good schools.

Whether I win or lose, our local schools will succeed or fail based on what you and your neighbors do…not me.

With that in mind, I will be hosting a get together at my home on November 3rd for anyone who is willing to accept the challenge of being involved. We need volunteers. We will rotate attending school board/school council meetings (and reporting to the group). We will organize people to run for school community councils. We will encourage you to volunteer at your local schools. We also want to hear your ideas of what we can be doing to make a difference. If you cannot attend (get more information on our Facebook page), make sure we have your email so you can be on our list to get updates.

So join with me in a commitment this day to see November 3rd as being more important than November 2nd. November 2nd is about choosing who represents us. November 3rd is about doing our part, regardless of who wins the election. What we do is more important than what they do. Let’s not just make our voices heard, but our presence felt. Your vote is important to me, but not as important as your involvement.