Saturday, December 10, 2016

In the Moment

I've been mulling over this week's Board of Education swearing in of new members, subsequent election of new officers, and all that followed. Two moments stuck out to me. They are an indication of the the leadership style we can expect from Board Chair Cindy Vaillancourt.

The first moment occurred when Superintendent Foose suggested that the Board might not be able to take a partular action in question and suggested that the first step was to consult legal counsel. Ms. Vaillancourt calmly stated that no, they wouldn't be needing to do that, and any subsequent questions could be ironed out in the next day's closed meeting.

It was such a simple moment that one might have missed it. Ms. Vaillancourt listened to the Superintendent, considered her request, and then she said no. And in that exchange, the Howard County Board of Education ceased to serve at the pleasure of the Superintendent. Of course, by statute it's always been in writing that the Superintendent is under the supervision of the Board.

That isn't what's been in practice for quite some time.

No whip-cracking, no mustache-twirling necessary. Just a simple, "no, I don't think so."

Later on, when Sandie French was expressing dismay at the course of events, the irony of her protestations set off some in the audience. There were ripples of laughter. I don't believe that anyone was laughing at Ms. French, but rather were incredulous at her arguments.

Ms. Vaillancourt leaned forward to her microphone. "Come on, guys," she addressed the room. Her tone was gentle, but authoritative. The laughter ceased.

Clearly she was not going to allow anything that smacked of disrespect for a fellow board member. When you consider how members of the board have treated Ms. Vaillancourt in the past, her determination to be civil and even-handed is remarkable. Although, for anyone who knows her, it wasn't the least bit surprising.

Monday evening showed us Ms. Vaillancourt to be prepared, articulate, determined, and someone who will take no guff. It also showed her desire to work collegially with other board members, refusing to take or wield special privileges that other board chairs have claimed before her.

I'm looking forward to a new style of leadership on the Board of Education. Monday's meeting suggests good things are on the way.

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