Submitted by John Arbeeny.
I just finished reviewing 123 Clover Park School Board minutes from 2016 through 2021. My conclusions are based upon what typically appears to be condensed minutes which do not have a lot of detail. On significant issues, such as school reports, equity, accountability, etc. the communication appears primarily in one direction, from Superintendent and staff to Board.
Indeed it is the Superintendent who addresses the Board first in their meetings not the other way round. Thereafter there were few if any relevant Board comments to address the Superintendent’s remarks. Rather, Board comments typically were about mundane events such as personal visits, contacts, congratulations, etc. which had no bearing on substantive issues. Debate of any kind is seldom heard.
I could not find a single agenda item that specifically dealt with the District’s overall academic performance; not one! There were periodic “School Reports” of various high, middle and elementary schools: a total of 18 schools in 116 Board meetings typically clumped together at irregular intervals. These School Reports occurred on average about once a Quarter with none occurring after March 2020……….over a year and a half!
Unfortunately, these school reports tended to focus on issues like military dependent students, mobility, free lunch, diversity and a smattering of certain successful “micro” subject areas without addressing the macro status academically. I didn’t see any comparison to other like schools in the State or the District’s academic standing in the State. Spaced apart as they were, these school reports lost any continuity in framing the District’s status academically; a case of being unable to see the forest for the trees.
On the few occasions that the Board was involved in a “program” there was little hard data to determine whether it was warranted, was effective and how so measured. There was little to no attribution of positions taken by Board members in forming policy. This may be a limitation of the minutes especially during working sessions.
I found only two State assessment results (2016, 2017) discussions but none thereafter. I assume that these are the same annual assessments made by OSPI yet in neither case were the results actually discussed or shown in the minutes. Perhaps this is a case of “no news is good news” as the District’s academic performance at that time had already been rather mediocre.
An “accountability plan” was mentioned 4 times but there was no data provided on accountability criteria, metrics for measurement, progress or decline. It appears that the accountability plan was more administrative than an actual accounting of the District’s success of failure academically. I did not see any actual annual accountability plan data presented to the Board for its review. I’m not sure how you can hold anyone, Board member or Superintendent or staff, accountable without producing that data.
The Board’s evaluation process was brought up once in 2020 as the self ranking of individual board members, other board members and the Superintendent. This appears more like a personality contest as there was no mention of ranking based upon District academic progress or failure. This appears to be something of a mutual admiration society rather than based upon the District’s actual academic progress.
I did not see any substantive Board generated policy or even discussion of Administration “recommended” policy to the Board. Policy issues were developed by the Administration and then presented to the Board for their vote as an already accomplished fact. A perfect example of the “cart before the horse” is the implementation of the Superintendent’s “Equity Policy” over the last two years with the scheduled Board approval of that policy on 13 September 2021! It makes one wonder why we have or even need a Board.
It is the Board that is supposed to “propose” policy and accountability and the Superintendent who is supposed to implement those Board proposals. But that’s not happening. I don’t recall any up or down vote by the Board to actually formulate policy or any real substantive Board discussion of policy. This may be a defect in the minutes but I’d expect a formal vote on everything brought before the Board. It didn’t happen.
The most common occurrence of a Board motion, second and vote was to accept minutes of previous Board meetings, approval of consent agenda and individual items which are mostly administrative in nature, and to adjourn. The one glaring exception to this rule occurred on12 September 2016 when the Board voted 3-0 with one abstention (Wagemann) to approve a DRAFT teachers union contract without ever having received a copy or having taking the opportunity to read it! It must be nice to have union representation on the Board!
These minutes reveal first and foremost that the Superintendent is the one leading the District from the front and the Board just tagging along for the ride. The Board is “leading from behind” instead of up front by not providing the policy and accountability leadership which are the primary roles for which Board members are elected. Rather, the Superintendent, a hired employee, is doing the job of the Board, our erstwhile elected representatives. This has to change and this election gives you that opportunity.
The incumbent Board members, Schafer and Pearson seeking re-election have failed in that leadership role so it is no surprise that the District itself has sunk to the bottom third academically in the State. Want to change this dynamic? Re-electing the same incumbents and expecting a change in results is the definition of insanity. David Anderson and Jeff Brown offer a very different perspective of leading from the front which is absolutely necessary to turn this “ship of education” around and head it towards the academic excellence it is capable of achieving.