MAKING THE GRADE: Board self-assessment helps district leaders set priorities


By Daily News • Last Updated 10:48 am on Thursday, August 07, 2014

Making the Grade | Janet Ralph

The community has an opportunity to evaluate its Board of Education members every other year at the November election. It used to be every year, but that changed when the State eliminated the annual May school election in an effort to cut costs. Sometimes local boards survey their parents or community for input.

Boards have always been able to evaluate how they are doing, but the ever-changing world in which we operate makes it more important than ever that board members take responsibility for knowing how they are doing on a regular basis.

Recently, the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) created an opportunity to help local boards of education assess their effectiveness. Using their program, boards can do a self evaluation online. They receive a report of the results. Then a representative from MASB will come to a meeting to lead a discussion and assist board members in determining their strengths and weaknesses and make changes if they see a need.

The Greenville board chose to use this process as part of their annual board/administration retreat on Aug. 4. MASB was surprised to learn for many years the board has included administrators in its retreat. Working together, this group evaluates strengths, weaknesses and concerns and sets the goals for the coming school year. Then administrators have their own retreat to establish the process they will use to reach the commonly established goals.

This collaborative process has been very effective because all the stakeholders have input and investment in the process and the outcome. The MASB checked and told board members that this is the only group that they are aware of which does it this way.

Earlier this summer, board members and members of the administrative team had an opportunity to complete a self-assessment survey online. The facilitator from MASB at its retreat on Aug. 4 was Tim Detwiler. He is with Cornerstone University and is president of the Northview Board of Education. He began by reviewing the results of the online survey with the members of the group. It was a new experience for him to have such a large group participate in the discussion.

There were seven areas covered in the survey: leadership, academic performance/accountability, board responsibility, board effectiveness, data-driven decision making, board-superintendent relations and community engagement/advocacy. The results were very good for leadership, board responsibilities, board effectiveness and board-superintendent relations. Scores in the areas of data-driven decision making and community engagement and advocacy, although very good, were slightly lower. No one was particularly surprised about this because these are areas about which district leaders have expressed concern and where efforts to improve are taking place.

The administrators had its own retreat at the end of last week. It will report back to board members the priorities it identified and the strategies it proposed to use in the coming school year.

Anyone who is interested in reviewing the survey results is welcome to do so. They will be available in the superintendent’s office.

Janet Ralph is president of the Greenville Public Schools Board of Education.

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