Ask the Policy Team – A Benefit of ASBA Membership
My board is divided, what does policy say about agenda items when a board is divided by ideology, politics or personality?
By Nick Buzan, ASBA Director of Legal and Policy Services
Question: “My board is divided, what does policy say about agenda items when a board is divided by ideology, politics or personality?”
Answer: Policy mandates board member collaboration for the greater good of their combined mission which is facilitated by the Board President and the Superintendent.
“You do not have to be best friends to be teammates. Even Woody and Buzz got under each other’s plastics.” – Ted Lasso
In Apple TV’s hit comedy Ted Lasso, Coach Lasso has the daunting task of trying to manage his two most important players, one old and not yet wise, one young and not yet kind. In the episode “For the Children,” Coach Lasso explains to them that they can despise each other and still work for the common good of the team. He gives the examples of great teammates that did not get along that well off the pitch, e.g., Kobe and Shaq, Lennon and McCartney, and of course Woody and Buzz (noting also that Woody was not plastic but cloth).
School board policy requires board members to collaborate and just like Ted Lasso, it’s for the children. Let’s look at a few items from policy that emphasize collaboration.
A. Setting the Agenda (BEDBA) – Every player has a role.
Policy vests the superintendent with the authority to prepare meeting agendas in consultation with the board president. (BEDBA). The superintendent selects the agenda items and achieves the board president’s approval prior to sending this agenda to the board members and publishing. Any board member proposing an item for consideration may do so.
This process is a collaboration. Due deference is given to each individual team member for the governance of the school district. The superintendent is given deference because they are the board’s choice to manage the day-to-day operations of the school district. The board president is given deference because the board has appointed them to speak for the board on this issue. The other board members have a role to play as well, they must review the proposed agenda and propose items relevant to board governance.
As ASBA Executive Director Dr. Sheila Harrison-Williams often says, “There are no big I’s and little you’s” in quality school board governance. Even the newest board member should have a role in suggesting agenda items. Board members whose agenda items are not added should be given due respect and deference as to why their item is not added. Consideration on the other hand is a limited right and responsible governance means ceding your voice to the board to achieve the team’s goals.
B. Board President – To whom much is given, much is expected.
The board president is endowed with the important job of consulting with the superintendent and approving items to be placed on the agenda for each meeting. (BDB). With the right mixture of personalities, this may be an exercise in stress management that makes you rethink your willingness to serve (did Carter’s hair gray more during his school board service or his term as President?). To be sure, the duties of the board president are immense, Policy BDB states that the board president shall do all of the following:
- Preside over all meetings.
- Encourage and maintain orderly and democratic participation.
- Keep all discussions factual and on the subject at hand.
- Allow for full and complete exploration of each item of business.
In 2023, governing a school board meeting may be a formidable task. But, who said anything worth doing was easy? Henry Robert, the inventor of Robert’s Rules of Order, devised his rules for the purpose of guiding successful organizations. He recognized that an agreed upon set of rules was important and that while decisions are made by the majority, the minority must be given a chance to be heard. (See Generally Robert’s Rules of Order (Newly Revised), http://www.robertsrules.com).
The same logic applies to school board meetings governed with board adopted policies — the board president should facilitate hearing the voice of the minority on their board. The board president is not the gatekeeper of the agenda from the rest of the board,
“Instead, the board president brings the voice of the full board to the process and simply works with the superintendent to place items on the agenda in a time-bound manner with an appropriate amount of time for discussion and/or approval.”
ASBA Board President Handbook, p.28.
So, there you have it, boards are meant to be collaborative, and policy supports that view. What more can you expect for the governance of institutions that the Supreme Court has called the “nurseries of democracy.” Let me leave you with this:
“America’s public schools are the nurseries of democracy. Our representative democracy only works if we protect the “marketplace of ideas.” This free exchange facilitates an informed public opinion, which, when transmitted to lawmakers, helps produce laws that reflect the People’s will. That protection must include the protection of unpopular ideas, for popular ideas have less need for protection.”
Mahanoy Area School Dist. V. B.L., 141 S. Ct. 2038, 2046 (2021).
The Court may have been referring to the free speech rights of students, but Boards that recognize each other’s voices are also wise to learn the Court’s quoted aphorism, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Id. If Woody and Buzz can do it, so can you.
Tri-County Convening: Focusing on the Priorities that Unite Us – May 6
All Apache, Navajo and Coconino County governing board members and superintendents are invited
All Apache, Navajo and Coconino County governing board members and superintendents are invited and encouraged to attend this convening to identify our common challenges and priorities as rural and remote districts and begin identifying solutions and strategies we can work together to address. Topics may include teacher recruitment and retention, transportation, increased costs for services that we experience, and student achievement. This event will be facilitated by members of the ASBA staff. A light breakfast and time for networking will also be provided.
When: Saturday, May 6, 2023, from 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Where: Flagstaff USD District Administrative Center, Board Room, 3285 East Sparrow Avenue, Flagstaff, AZ 86004
Conveners: Members of the Arizona School Boards Association Board of Directors:
- Desiree Fowler (Page USD), ASBA President-Elect
- Arnold Goodluck (Sanders USD), ASBA Apache County Director
- Dorothy Denetsosie Gishie (Flagstaff USD, ASBA Coconino County Director
- Jarrahlyn Begaye (Cedar USD), ASBA Navajo County Director
Special Guests (Invited): Arlando Teller, assistant secretary for tribal affairs, U.S. Department of Transportation; Selianna Robles Chang, P-12 Education Policy Advisor to Gov. Katie Hobbs
Registration is required. The fee is $20/person. Register by clicking here.
ASBA District Spotlight: Cartwright SD switches to four-day workweek to recruit teachers
Cartwright School District’s shift to a four-day workweek with Fridays off will begin in the 2023-2024 school year.
“The benefit of adopting a four-day workweek will make the district more appealing to job candidates as Arizona struggles to recruit new teachers,” said Marissa Hernandez, Cartwright School District Governing Board President.
Cartwright School District’s goal is to provide a first-class education to all students in the district and teach them global skills to become independent, confident, lifelong learners.
“A lot of it is an employee-relations effort to make sure that we’re trying to recruit and retain the best qualified employees that we can get,” Hernandez said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the district implemented a four-day school week for its 14,000 students at 19 schools, giving students Fridays off. Even though parents know that these four-day schedules come with longer school days, that change was not only favored by them through surveys but also improved attendance to 93% this school year, Superintendent LeeAnn Aguilar Lawlor. That got them thinking. “Why not do a four-day workweek for our employees, for our staff, for their mental well-being, for their health and wellness,” the superintendent added.
The four-day workweek will add a day to their weekends, allowing them to come backrejuvenated and refreshed. Four-day workweeks have been shown to decrease stress and improve mental health, according to Cartwright School District Spokesperson Victor Hugo Rodriguez.
To many teachers and staff, a three-day weekend is a perk that allows them to have an extra day during the week to run errands or spend more time with their loved ones.
“We’re ready and excited for it,” said Hanna Mulholland, a first-grade teacher at a school within the Cartwright School District. “My family is huge to me, so being able to see them a little bit more, that means the world. I am also really excited to have an extra day to rest, rejuvenate and sharpen that saw before coming back to kids on Monday.”
These three-day weekends energize Cartwright scholars and allow them to come back to school on Mondays ready to learn. The Superintendent believes that a three-day weekend can do the same for all staff.
The district put together a four-day implementation task force and devised a plan that “Everyone agreed on,” Lawlor said.
The superintendent said the move would also benefit the district financially in the long run.
Learn more about SLI keynote speaker Frank Kitchen
ASBA Summer Leadership Institute Keynote Speaker Frank Kitchen will share how to “Build Your Recipe for Leadership Success” during this eagerly anticipated conference in the cool pines of Flagstaff.
During this interactive session, you will learn about the seven skills needed to create your very own leadership style.
Kitchen’s flavorful stories of success and failure have challenged audiences to transform their professional aspirations into reality.
Registration opens Monday, April 24 on the ASBA website with more session details coming soon.
Clarkdale-Jerome ESD superintendent search opens this week
ASBA is your one-stop shop for superintendent searches. From helping your board become search ready, launching a statewide or nationwide search, to assisting you with a smooth transition post-search – we’ve got you covered.
ASBA is searching for a superintendent for several school districts in Arizona, including Clarkdale-Jerome, which will open later this week, and Sacaton Elementary School Districts, as well as Prescott Unified School District.
Click here to find out more about the process, and see recent openings on ASBA’s website.
Let’s honor Administrative Professionals! Anyone can nominate
ASBA would like to highlight Administrative Professionals during the month of April as we lead up to Administrative Professionals Day on April 26. Please email photos or videos of your Administrative Professionals with a brief sentence or two about why they’re so important to your students, teachers, staff, board, school or district to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll highlight them on ASBA social media throughout the month and draw an Administrative Professional’s name each week in April to receive a gift card.
Register now for the Wednesday Webinar: Engagement and the Importance of Home Language
As an exclusive benefit of ASBA membership, members can register to attend the Wednesday Webinars live or view the recording at their own leisure. Learn from key experts and receive continuing education units for participating in and watching webinars.
No Entendo. я не понимаю. لا أفهم. Sielewi.( “I don’t understand” in Spanish, Russian, Arabic and Swahili)
While many of our students and their families understand English, there are those that do not. In the Wednesday Webinar: I Don’t Understand: Engagement and the Importance of Home Language on April 26, 2023 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., we will talk about how districts that want to engage all members of their community may find it challenging to find translation services. In this webinar, we will share some best practices for engaging students and families with a home language other than English.
If you can’t attend the webinar live, receive a recording directly to your email by registering for the event in advance. There is no cost to register for this webinar. We encourage advance registration.
ASBA Events and Webinars
Upcoming ASBA Webinars
Wednesday Webinars: Students Have Rights?!?!
May 10, 4 pm – 5 pm
You can find all Wednesday webinars on the ASBA webpage.
Can’t view the webinar live? No problem. Go ahead and register and you will receive the recording automatically by email so you can view it later. There is no cost to register for these webinars. We encourage advance registration.
Upcoming ASBA Events
Summer Leadership Institute
June 8 – 10, 2023 (Save the Date) Registration opens Monday, April 24.
In-Person New Board Member Orientation Part Two
June 8, 2023 (Save the Date) Registration opens Monday, April 24.
View all ASBA events on the ASBA website.