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November 16, 2006

More effective school boards

Tim Schell marvels at the difficulty of serving on a local school board, and I certainly share his amazement at the volume of information presented to board members. With all of that information and time necessary to understand it, how can board effectively oversee the management of a school district? To me, effective means being certain the boards decision's and the actions of the administration reflect the educational goals and values of a community.

I'd think that a board could function most effectively if a district had a clear plan for its future -- clear enough that the community can understand and support it; clear enough that the volumes of information can be understood in the context of the plan; clear enough that a board can keep the administration and itself focused on the plan; clear enough that new programs, new laws, new grants can be assessed against the plan.

Little of the above seems to apply to the MMSD, so the board's oversight of the administration happens piecemeal, largely in response to community screams about changes made unilaterally by the administration.

The disussion of the Madison Virtual Campus stands as an illustration of my point; the board and the community seem to know little about it; no one seems to have discussed whether the Madison Virtual Campus might fit into a grand plan or impact other activities of the district. Just to list a few questions, could the virtual campus satisfy the requests for AP and other advanced classes? Could it reduce the need for more classrooms on the edges of the community? Could it actually reduce MMSD expenditures? Could it be used to raise academic achievement for students who are not up to grade level standards? And the big question, what's the goal or goals of the Madison Virtual Campus?

Back to my original point, the MMSD board could more effectively oversee the Madison Virtual Campus if the MMSD had a clear plan and a clear statement of how the Madison Virtual Campus fits into that plan.


Actually, I think the administration has a plan (maybe not a grand plan) which guides board and administration decisions. The plan seems to be one to close the achievement gap (and cut costs perhaps) by dumbing down the curriculum. The plan helps me make sense of apparently unrelated decisions, such as English 10 at West, changes at East, and restricting students from accessing courses from institutions outside of the district.

Posted by Ed Blume at November 16, 2006 10:26 AM
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