School Board reviewing, revising policies

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— The Steamboat Springs School Board is reviewing and revising its governing policies, which largely have gone untouched in the past decade.

Among the major changes is modifying the conflict of interest policy to allow paid district employees to serve on the School Board and modifying the board code of conduct policy to emphasize a team approach over individual interests. The policy revisions are scheduled to be considered on first reading at a meeting on June 20.

Superintendent Donna Howell said the roles and responsibilities of the board and the superintendent's office have become unclear under the district's guiding philosophy of policy governance. Under policy governance, boards establish goals or outcomes for management to achieve and then give management the leeway to decide how best to achieve those outcomes.

"There was a misperception on the board that they went through the superintendent's office for everything involved in listening to the people," she said. "It's appropriate to understand that the board sets policy based on the needs of the community. The superintendent's office acts on those policies."

District 5 School Board Member Jerry Kozatch said the policy review has been extremely helpful for the board.

"Examination of every single word of every one of these policies gives us a better idea on how to make improvements," he said. "We are looking at these things, eliminating the redundancies and streamlining these things so they are not so wordy and we can understand them."

Kozatch, who joined the school board in November 2006, noted policy review should be an ongoing process.

"We have developed a schedule to review these policies every month over a year," he said. "We are going to be recycling through them and checking these things to see if they are valid or if they need to be changed.

"It has been exciting. People will have a better idea of what they are supposed to be doing, for whom and at what cost. We need to make sure we organize them into some kind of logical sequence where things are in places where we can find them easily."

Howell said many boards in Colorado permit district employees to serve on the board.

"Through this review process, we have tried to identify policies that may not adhere to Colorado state laws," she said. "It is our understanding it is not illegal for school board member to be an employee of the district. This policy reflected the values and beliefs of previous boards."

The board also will present for first reading changes to the board member's code of conduct, which will emphasize working as a group, rather than working for individual interests.

"You can't come in as a board member and just represent staff, you can't come in and just represent parents," she said. "You must represent the whole community."

Howell said she will visit with various government, civic, religious and school groups throughout the year to gather input on further changes to policies.

"It's about two pieces we didn't have in place - linkages and monitoring reports," she said. "We need to look at how do you link to your shareholders, which is the people you represent - the public. And then you monitor protocol to strengthen and enhance communication."

Jim Weigel, a consultant with the Colorado Association of School Boards, helped the board with the policy review and modifications.

"The board as a whole, long before the current board, stopped living out of the policy book that was developed 10 years ago," he said. "They put it on the shelf and they decided they were going to do what they wanted to do."

Some policies have been rewritten, while others were totally abandoned, but Weigel said the biggest change is the amount of flexibility the board will now give Howell and her staff. The board will set goals for the district and the guidelines for achieving those goals.

"From there, she can use her own judgment on how to proceed within those parameters," he said. "There's some kind of human nature that draws people to tell others how to do things rather than say the results they want accomplished."

Comments

Hammurabi 7 years, 6 months ago

This is certainly interesting. Paid employees will soon be allowed to become the employers. Since a great amount of the board time is spent in salary negations, why not just hire the teachers union to be the school board? Then the union can get everything they want out of the community pocketbook without any checks or balances. The board must and should be very worried about the recall efforts and the up coming election in November to take this on now. The more they tackle issues such as these, the more they allow the electorate to see exactly what their agenda is. This community just voted a mill levy override to support teachers, we just voted to build a new school. We support great education, but we will not support this board any longer.

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