Thursday, April 24, 2014

Board of Education Recap., 6-9

Question, "What do you think the job of a Board of Education member is?" Please address the following:

1. What power does the position convey?

2. What is the best use of that power?

3. To whom is the Board of Education member responsible?

Cynthia Vaillancourt

1. Ms. Vaillancourt comes right out of the starting gate challenging the notion of "power conveyed" by the office of Board of Education member. Such power as the Board of Education may wield is given to her/him to be expressed as a body, and not to individual members, she asserts. The individual member has the "opportunity and access to represent the voices as advocate for the needs of the community..."

2. The best use of that power, then, is to advocate for the education of citizens through good decisions on educational matters, use of funds, and providing a "safe, nurturing and supportive community..."

3. The Board of Education is responsible to "all the citizens of the county in matters related the the HCPSS."

Keywords, or things that stuck in my mind: clearly the clarification or redefinition of power as conferred only upon the body as a whole rather than to the individual members got me thinking. In addition, as this comes from an incumbent candidate, I am inclined to believe that this distinction is significant in how we look at how the Board of Education functions. The combination of the words "opportunity and access" indicates to me that Ms. Vaillancourt values the unique responsibility board members have in listening and advocating for stakeholders.

Did she answer the question I asked? Yes, she did.

Olga Butler

1. Ms. Butler describes important roles that the Board member is tasked with: "to provide direct over sight of the school superintendent" and "to influence the current and future path of education..." and "to ensure that every child is given equal opportunity to excel and succeed." However, I was unable to pin down a specific response to "what power does the position convey?"

2. Again, I find that rather than describing the best use of the power conveyed, Her answer describes good qualities that a Board of Education members should have: should be a good listener and observer, should be respectful. Should be "a liason between the parents, children, educators,and the community."

3. The Board of Education member is "accountable to the citizens of Howard County."

Keywords, or what stuck in my mind: again, the use of the word liason makes me uncomfortable in this context. The idea of forging "positive, healthy relationships amongst all stakeholders" is a laudable goal and I'll admit that appeals to me, given a climate of sagging morale in the school system.

Did she answer the question I asked? No, not entirely. Ms. Butler gave a fine general statement on the topic, but I wish she had zeroed in more specifically in her answer.

Sandra French

1. Ms. French, the other incumbent candidate, uses material from the Annotated Code of Maryland to address the question of power conveyed to the Board. Like Ms. Vaillancourt, she clarifies that "individual board members have no authority other than powers of presence, persuasion, relationship-building and collaborating to effect change." She then outlines what the Board as a whole may do: adopting policies, evaluating Superintendent's performance, adopting budget, and so on.

2. Therefore, if the individual board member has no power on his/her own, the best use of power must be "individual networking and respectful convince a majority of the Board to vote a certain way." The Board member brings individual expertise and learns from others in order form a position on topics at hand.

3. Throughout her response, Ms. French uses statements like "sacred trust with the community" , "responsible for listening to" stakeholders and also mentions being "required to comply with all laws." She does not specifically address the question, "To whom is the Board of Education member responsible."

Keywords, or what stuck in my mind: again, the assertion that the Board member as an individual has no power (see CV) stands out. In its most logical conclusion, the primary function of the Board member is to "convince a majority of the Board to vote a certain way." The best use of power would be do it in a "positive way." I find it rather disconcerting that Ms. French does not truly answer question 3, at least not to my satisfaction.

Does she answer the question I asked? Almost. Pretty close. Ms. French offers an abundance of detail on the nitty-gritty of the statute but leaves us hanging when it comes to responsibility.

Bess Altwerger

1. I see throughout Dr. Altwerger's response a strong sense of the Board member's responsibility "to provide the best education possible for all of our students." However, she doesn't clearly state what power the position conveys to fulfill that responsibility.

2. Board of Ed. members can best use their power to "solicit input and be responsive to all of their constituents." Although working cooperatively, they must "act as an independent (of the Superintendent's Office) body and take bold actions as needed in order to be responsive..." She also stresses collaboration and negotiation throughout.

3. Dr. Altwerger takes the opportunity to address responsibility numerous times throughout her response. The Board of Education member is responsible to constituents including teachers and their Union, parents and the PTA, voters and members of the community.

Keywords, or things that stuck in my mind: openness. Open-minded, open meetings, being responsible and responsive. In addition, she stresses the importance of local control of curriculum and assessment. It is also significant that she takes the time to describe the working relationship of the Board and the Superintendent, valuing both cooperation and independence.

Did she answer the question I asked? Again--almost, in that questions 2 and 3 are well-supported but the answer to question 1 is not clearly articulated.

That's all for now, with great thanks to the candidates who have responded so far. We have four more to hear from...





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