Saturday, October 13, 2012

BOE/Staff Mixer?

I saw on the Potsdam Board of Education's October 9th agenda that President Cowen listed "BOE/Staff Mixer" under his portion of the agenda.  I wondered what this was about so I asked another BOE member and was told that President Cowen is suggesting that there be social events with members of the staff in the future.  This appears to be an attempt to formalize an activity that has been going on for a while with some of the BOE members.

I think that I have mentioned before that many of the BOE members have connections to the staff at Potsdam Central.  The Board President's wife is a teacher, the Board Vice-President's wife is a secretary, one BOE member is a teacher in another district and a fourth BOE member has a daughter teaching in the district.  The Superintendent must be getting quite concerned that BOE members and Staff members are going to go right around him relative to making decisions about what happens at Potsdam Central. 

I am sure that the purpose is to get to know each other more personally with the expectation that there will be more "trust" relative to decisions made by the BOE.  But that is not how it works.  The Board of Education acts upon recommendations of the Superintendent, who is responsible for providing enough information to the Board members so that a decision can be made.  After nine years on the Board of Education, I can tell you that, by and large, most of the issues a Board deals with are personnel issues. With the tough budgets from the last few years and the tough ones that are to come, the last thing that a BOE should be doing is having people whisper in their ears about the way the school operates.  The person the BOE should be trusting is the Superintendent whom they hire to manage the school district. 

Staff will know that the Board of Education members support the educational programs offered by the district when they attend school functions.  How many BOE members go to events not attended by their own children?  Do those BOE members with elementary children go to the high school Open Houses or athletic events, or do those with high school children go to the Third grade play or the 8th grade USO show?  When I was on the BOE, there was an effort made to make sure at least one BOE member attended every function at the schools. 

I am actually secretly hoping that the Board of Education does make plans to have a mixer with the staff.  Since this would be a pre-planned activity of the BOE, it is likely that a majority of the BOE would be in attendance, and may discuss topics which could be coming to the BOE in the future, these events would have to be publicized and open to the public.  Any other scenario would be a violation of the Open Meeting Law. 

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