Questions, concerns arise during Howard-Suamico school board meeting
By Ben Rodgers
SUAMICO – The Howard-Suamico school board was presented with concerns from a board member at its Monday, Aug. 13, meeting regarding various policies.
After serving on the board for a full school year, Vanessa Moran raised doubts on whether the board was fulfilling its goals and acting correctly in its duties.
Moran did this during the board’s governance process reviews, which is the board’s method to monitor itself.
Because the school board works on a policy governance model, Moran could ask her questions regarding these specific monitoring reports as a formal agenda item.
“This report specifically, it talks about the community’s education values and group policy development,” Moran said. “I don’t know what policy development we’ve undergone. I think there’s been some actions, talking, regarding our time and talent that doesn’t necessarily reflect our community values.”
She questioned the district administration eliminating one mentor position for teachers a year after it was originally slated to be cut with the passage of last April’s referendum.
“I feel the community was very, very clear with us before the referendum, during the referendum and after the referendum,” Moran said. “We were awarded those dollars and kind of changed the direction we said we’re going in.”
Moran said she was expressing her concerns on behalf of the community.
“To have one person say you’re speaking on behalf of the community when I have not heard the same concerns, we need to make sure we are presenting all (concerns), not just a small subset,” said Teresa Ford, board president.
Ford asked if anyone else on the board heard concerns from the community regarding district staffing.
“There was a concern from a couple people I have talked to about the number of people that are filling the district office,” said Gary Sievert, board member. “That was their concern.”
Mark Smith, assistant superintendent of organizational development, said the mentor positions that were hired are employees of the district, but work in the schools.
“It’s not about keeping folks here in the building to do work here, it’s about impacting students and staff to the best of our ability,” Smith said.
Superintendent Damian LaCroix said the work being done has a larger goal in mind, the district’s graduate profile.
“To me, that’s the more important conversation,” LaCroix said. “Are we impacting or moving the needle relative to the graduate profile?”
Moran also previously met with Smith to discuss a hiring practice and brought those concerns to the board as well.
“I met with Mark (Smith) regarding hiring practices as of late,” Moran said. “I wasn’t giving direction, but questioned if it was a violation.”
Ford said she was willing to work with Moran one-on-one to get a better understanding on how the policy governance model works and what the board is able to do.
“We can have a conversation about it, you and I, if you’d like, or you and anybody else, we can talk about it as a whole board,” Ford said. “I can help you deal with the process of addressing your concerns, but solving the concerns is not something we can do.”
Finally, Moran questioned the policy in regards to the board’s governing style, saying she wants to become more involved, but keeps hitting roadblocks.
“I’m trying to understand more about it, the reading and discussions, I’m doing everything I can and the more I learn, the more I’m just encouraging diverse viewpoints,” she said. “I have felt like sometimes my voice hasn’t been heard. I feel like I have pretty thick skin, but it’s not thick enough.”
More specifically, Moran wanted to see more board members bring their talents to the table and capitalize more effectively on their shared expertise.
“We have opportunities and I feel like we’re turning our backs on them or aren’t engaging on them,” she said. “That to me stuck out as an area where we aren’t doing what we say we’re going to do, and I think we have some issues with the items I bolded.”
Ford said the board’s role, as a governing board, is to govern policy, not to manage it.
“How the ends are obtained is means-based,” Ford said. “Crafting what the ends are, what we want in the future, those are the ends, but we do not operationalize those ends. So there’s vision for where we want the district to go, and there’s vision for how to get it there, and that’s what the administrators do.”
LaCroix said the concerns are good, because it means the board cares about the desired outcome for the district and the best way to achieve it.
“Just the fact that you remain engaged in the process and want to go deeper in your understanding is a good sign,” he said. “Most boards aren’t doing that and this board is.”