Monday, October 17, 2011

What's Wrong With Not Knowing What You Don't Know?

The majority of charter school governing board members in Colorado are well-meaning parents who get involved in their child's education by serving on the charter school's governing board. The rest are community members who are giving of their time for altruistic reasons or simply to build their resume. Either group of people, while attempting to do their very best, often don't even know to look out for things they don't know about.

Take for example, a mother who serves as a Board President and the board decides to terminate a Principal. Soon her children are being cussed at on the playground and her children's classmates are saying mean things about her to her kids. On the surface it would be easy to try and defend the Board President's position with a strong rationale for why immediate removal of the Principal is the best thing for the entire school. But the legal liability of talking about personnel issues leaves the Board President without anything to say--to her children or her (former) friends who side with the Principal.

While drastic experiences like this can be a great learning opportunity, it's best to be able to reason through similar scenarios before they happen. This is what the Board President's Council is about. The next meeting is this Friday, Oct. 21st, 9 to 11:30 a.m. at the Colorado School District Self-Insurance Pool.

For any type of personnel issues the best response is no response. It's impossible for board members to explain their reasoning, which is exactly what upset parents push for. It's even more difficult when the upset parents are friends of the volunteer charter school board member. In fact, the board member's family often suffers from the thankless job of being a volunteer board member.

This potential conflict for parents is why many states have predominantly "professional boards" without any parental involvement or else only one or two parents on the board. But board members who aren't prepared for a personnel termination can easily get the charter school into trouble by talking about the issues for a termination.

There's a Board President's Handbook that every charter school Board President should keep handy for easy reference. It's a compilation of years of questions that have been posed by Board President's and ideas for how to address various scenarios.

Wondering how to cut off a disgruntled parent who takes up all of the Public Comment period at every meeting? Is the meeting getting heated and you don't know how to get the board to return to the issue at hand? Do you think your school is doing just fine, but then find out the school's School Performance Framework (SPF) is in the Priority Improvement category? These and many more practical resources are in the Board President's Handbook.

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