Madison School Board Priorities: Ethics, Achievement, or ?

TJ Mertz makes a great point here:

Last up, is “Next Steps for Future Board Development Meetings and Topics.’ Board development is good and important, but with only 2/3 of the term left I hate to see too much time and energy devoted to Board Development.
I keep coming back to this. Every year about 1/3 of the time and energy is devoted to budget matters, that leaves 2/3 to try to make things better. Put it another way; it is September, budget season starts in January. Past time to get to work.
This just leaves the closed meeting on the Superintendent evaluation. Not much to add to what I wrote here. My big point is that almost all of this process should be public. I will repost the links to things that are public:

Charlie Mas continues to chronicle, in a similar manner to TJ, the Seattle School Board’s activities.
In my view, the Madison School Board might spend time on:

  • Public Superintendent Review, including oversight of the principal and teacher review process. Done properly, this should improve teaching effectiveness over time. This process should include full implementation of Infinite Campus. Infinite Campus is a potentially powerful tool to evaluate many activities within the District.
  • Implement a 5 year budget.
  • Evaluate ongoing MMSD Programs for their effectiveness, particularly from a spending and staffing perspective.

Voters will have another chance to weigh in on the Madison School Board during the spring, 2011 election, when seats currently occupied by Ed Hughes and Marj Passman will be on the ballot. Those interested in running should contact the City of Madison Clerk’s office.
Update: I received the draft Madison School Board ethics documents via a Barbara Lehman email (thanks):

  • Board Member Ed Hughes 241K PDF

    Presently we do not have a policy that describes expectations regarding the performance of School Board members. The Committee developed this list on the basis of similar policies adopted by other Boards as well as our own discussion of what our expectations are for each other. The Committee members were able to reach consensus on these expectations fairly quickly.
    Expectation No.4 refers to information requests. We realize that current MMSD Policy 1515 also refers to information requests, but our thinking was that the existing policy addresses the obligation of the superintendent to respond to information requests. We do not currently have a policy that addresses a Board member’s obligation to exercise judgment in submitting information requests.
    Expectation No. 10 is meant to convey that School Board members hold their positions 24-hours a day and have a responsibility to the Board always to avoid behavior that would cast the Board or the District in a poor light.

    How might Number 10 affect an elected Board member’s ability to disagree with District policies or activities?

  • Outgoing Madison School District Counsel Dan Mallin 700K PDF.:

    These paragraphs are a modification from existing language. Although the overall intent appears to remain similar to existing policy, I recommend the existing language because I think it does a better job of expressly recognizing the competing interests between the “beliefstatements” and a Board Member’s likely right, as an individual citizen (and perhaps as a candidate for office while simultaneously serving on the Board) to accept PAC contributions and or to make a statement regarding a candidate. Perhaps the langnage could make clear that no Board Member may purport to, or attempt to imply, that they are speaking for the School Board when making a statement in regard to a candidate for office. That is, they should be express that they are speaking in the individual capacity.

  • Draft ethics policy 500K PDF:

    The Board functions most effectively when individual Board Members adhere to acceptable professional behavior. To promote acceptable conduct of the Board, Board Members should:

  • Outgoing Counsel Dan Mallin’s 7/15/2010 recommendations.

4 thoughts on “Madison School Board Priorities: Ethics, Achievement, or ?”

  1. I agree with Jim. Also, I’m disappointed that such an important discussion was not televised either, or at least provisions made to tape it for later airing.
    However, I would like to add that the District, in most instances in recent years, does provide links to what is handed out/discussed at meetings and does televise meetings. I appreciate this and have found this to be very helpful. I am able to be more informed about topics before the School Board.

  2. Thanks for posting this, Jim. An update…
    It is my understanding that the draft circulated last night will come back to the board at the September 13 meeting for discussion and a final vote.
    My personal thought was that some very important articulations of rights and responsibilities were removed in the transition from current policy to proposed new policy:
    — all language mirroring state law is now replaced with links to the relevant codes and statutes (there are good arguments for and against doing it this way)
    The following sections were deleted but I believe are being restored (I don’t have my notes with me, but I believe that this was the final list of restorations):
    # Encourage the free expression of opinion by all Board members, and seek systematic communications between the Board and students, staff, and all elements of the community;
    # Communicate to other Board members and the Superintendent expressions of public reaction to Board Policies and school programs;
    # Support the employment of those persons best qualified to serve as school staff, and insist on a regular and impartial evaluation of all staff;
    1. The Board hereby acknowledges the legal rights of individuals elected to the school board (1) to accept campaign contributions in accordance with the law; and (2) to publicly express their opinions regarding the merits and fitness of an individual campaigning to serve as a school board member.
    2. However, the Board believes in promoting for itself a high ethical standard without infringing on the legal rights of individual Board members. Consistent with that belief, the Board feels that individual Board members should avoid real or perceived conflicts of interests in regard to the two beliefs statements enumerated below which are related to an individual Board member’s acceptance of campaign contributions from Political Action Committees and endorsement/denouncement of candidates campaigning to be a member of the school board.
    1. Board members should avoid taking campaign contributions from political action committees or any other groups that are likely to benefit from action that might be taken by a Board member; and
    2. Board members should avoid publicly endorsing or denouncing the candidacy of a person who is campaigning to be elected to the school board.

Comments are closed.