Green Bay school board clarifies roles of board/superintendent
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – In a continued effort to work more efficiently together, the Green Bay school board held a special meeting Tuesday, Sept. 24, with facilitator Drew Howick of Howick Associates from Madison.
Board members spent nearly 2 hours clarifying responsibilities and roles of the board and the administration, as well what both parties are responsible for.
Some of the more than two dozen roles/duties discussed include evaluating staff, establishing budget priorities, approving curriculum changes, addressing complaints from teachers, directing staff discipline and responding to complaints about taxes.
Generally speaking, the school board governs and the superintendent administers the district.
While this may sound simple, defining or separating duties between the two seemed, at least at first, difficult for board members.
Often times, when one board member would designate a duty to one or the other, another board member would bring up other thoughts on why it should be the other way.
“I would say in one sense, almost all of these could probably be together, depending on the circumstances,” said Board Vice President Andrew Becker.
The purpose of the exercise, Howick said, is to establish a clear understanding of the board and superintendent roles to eliminate the possibility of miscommunication, misunderstandings and conflict.
“A lot of boards and superintendents/administration relationships get mired because the parties are not clear on who the primary owner of a duty is,” Howick said. “And boards sometimes start getting into topics that are really owned by the superintendent/administration. That doesn’t mean that the board can’t share preferences, possibilities, ideas, etc., but at the end of the day there are some things that the superintendent and her administrative team are responsible for because that is why you hired her, so that you (the board) can focus on other things.”
Howick said each school district’s needs are unique.
“Some people would think, in theory, these things are the same in every school district, and what I have found is they are not,” Howick said. “This is not an exercise of deciding on a right answer. There is no key to this. What we will find through this discussion is that we need to understand the rationale why these are owned by the board and why they are owned by the superintendent.”
Only the superintendent can manage the day-to-day operations of the district, and only the board can identify the expectations for the district through its policies, Howick said.
During the meeting, board members also came to a consensus on the board’s seven guiding principles. They include:
• Strive to review board materials and seek clarifying information before board meetings.
• Embrace diverse views and perspectives as a path to effective solutions.
• Show consideration to everyone – fellow school board members, staff, students, families and community members in speech and behavior.
• Consider the merits of ideas as the primary driver of decisions.
• Offer comments efficiently and succinctly and avoid repetition in order to keep board meetings to a reasonable length.
• Create equitable and inclusive opportunities to promote community engagement.
• Engage in conversations in a way that allows for all perspectives to be shared, considered and valued.