It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve four years on the Greenwich Board of Education.
As I step down, I wanted to convey my thoughts on what makes an effective Board member and the candidates I support in the upcoming election. I care deeply about the effectiveness of the new Board as it works to achieve Board goals, improve student achievement and close the achievement gap. This is a high stakes election: our new Superintendent is in his second year, the budget process is about to kick off, and issues such as facilities utilization, racial imbalance and Common Core State Standards implementation will continue to challenge the Board. Newly elected Board members will have to hit the ground running and all members will need to:
Support the Superintendent. Superintendent Dr. McKersie’s long-term leadership is critical to move our District forward. Board members need to know what effective oversight is. They must understand what is appropriate to convey to our schools’ leadership both in public and in private. Board members should at all times treat our Superintendent - and for that matter, their colleagues on the Board and everyone else - with dignity and respect.
Stay focused and understand roles. Board members need to keep their efforts and the Superintendent’s directed towards the most important District goals and strategic initiatives. They know they govern through enforcing policies and leave management responsibilities to the Superintendent and his staff. They should be good listeners and should make a point of understanding all points of view. After information review, discussion, and community input, Board members need to take stands on tough issues. Rather than merely criticize, Board members must proactively seek solutions.
Work within the process. Board members advance their ideas and positions by forging consensus and convincing colleagues of their views. We take action by voting and each of the eight of us has one vote. Members have to embrace majority decisions whether or not they agreed with those positions in the first place. When Board members refuse to work with their colleagues and the schools’ administration, and instead pitch separate plans directly to the community, they undermine the effectiveness of the Board. An obligation to work within established Board processes (or work within the system to change those processes) is implicit in the commitment to serve. Those who choose to run around the system, damage it.
Do the work. Good Board members show up for meetings and come prepared. They ask relevant big picture questions, stay on topic and are good at engaging in dialogue. When they chair committees or participate in special projects, they effectively steer the process, do their share of the work and properly communicate to other Board members and involved parties. They state the purpose of their information requests and don’t overburden staff with non-essential data searches that take time and money and distract from priority work.
Be in it for the students. Board members must always ask themselves “is this in the best interests of the students?” It’s not about a Board member’s political party or about themselves. It should always be about the students.
I believe the candidates who will make the most effective Board of Education members are Republicans Peter Bernstein and Brian Peldunas and Democrats Debbie Appelbaum and Laura Erickson. All four of them have my vote on November 5th.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve,
Four-year Board Member
Greenwich Patch will publish election-related letters to the editor through Oct. 31. To be considered for publication, letters must be submitted by 5 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013.)