By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – Known to many as the person who takes roll call and records votes at school board meetings, Green Bay school board secretary Beth Jones has duties that extend beyond the boardroom – serving as a conduit of sorts for information between the board, administration and the general public.
Taking the reins last July when Sandy Heller retired after serving as board secretary for 18 years, Jones had to adapt quickly in her new role in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was challenging (coming into the position) given the state of the pandemic,” she said. “Superintendent Steve Murley started July 1 as well, which was great as we both had to hit the ground running together.”
At first glance, the role may seem straightforward – the board secretary attends meetings, takes notes and publishes the minutes.
However, though she’s not an elected member of the school board, her role is vital to its overall functioning.
Jones is in charge of recording minutes, posting notices, gathering and distributing necessary information and materials, scheduling meetings and meeting spaces and serving as a liaison between the school board and district administration, as well as handling all clerical work for the board.
Arguably, one of the most crucial of those duties is recording minutes.
Jones is responsible for recording detailed meeting minutes that are reflective of the work accomplished at all board and committee meetings.
She records everything that happens – including what is discussed, what motions are made and who made and seconded them, what actions are taken and how votes fall, along with what the next steps are as a result of those votes.
A keen ear for details is key as Jones is tasked with extracting and recording significant information from sometimes lengthy and decisive discussions, while she, herself, remains neutral.
Her duties don’t end when a meeting adjourns.
Jones is responsible for reviewing, tweaking and distributing minutes to the full board and administration in a quick turnaround.
Board minutes, once approved by trustees, become the official record of the school board.
They provide context for future governing boards, confirm decisions and create a historical timeline critical for future discussions.
“Accurate meeting minutes are essential to the effective operation of the school board and the district as a whole, which was very apparent this year as the board made many important decisions,” she said. “Thanks to school board minutes, district stakeholders had convenient access and a point of reference when setting new processes.”
As work for one meeting wraps up, it starts for the next.
Jones serves as a cog that keeps the wheel of school board business running, while at the same time communicating board business to all stakeholders before and after meetings.
While every day is different, Jones said her days typically start out the same – with coffee.
“(The) day begins before 5 a.m. in an attempt to get coffee in my system before getting everyone up, ready and out the door,” she said.
Meeting days are the busiest for Jones, filled with meetings with district administrators, planning for the upcoming week and any last-minute prep work for that evening’s board meeting.
“Board meetings start around 5 or 6 p.m., and typically run until 8 or 9 p.m, although some have run much later,” she said.
Jones said the complexity of how the school board works, and the responsibility she has in supporting it, is often unknown.
“I don’t think many people know that there are many Wisconsin state statutes that dictate how the board of education meetings are conducted,” she said. “I also don’t think the incredible amount of preparation that goes into the board of education meetings by the district administration and the board of education members is realized.”
Jones said the little things she encounters each day are the most rewarding.
“Knowing that this district makes a positive impact on so many lives is very fulfilling to me,” she said. “Often my favorite parts are the little daily reminders. It’s when the music teachers send a video of their most recent concert, when a parent thanks me for my help, when I look at a piece of student-made artwork or when I get to step inside of a school. I also work with a really incredible group of people which feels like a wonderful added bonus.”
Though Jones doesn’t make decisions at the board table, her work supporting the school board and the district has become something she is passionate about.
“The district’s mission and vision closely align with my values, and I believe in the work the district does,” she said. “For me, the hardest part is hearing negative feedback about the school district I care so deeply about.”
Jones grew up south of Green Bay in Maribel.
She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies.
On top of her work with the school board, Jones also serves as an executive assistant to the superintendent.
Prior to this role, she served as the executive assistant to the executive directors of education for the Green Bay district, which she started in 2017.
On the spot
Describe your job in one sentence: “I support the superintendent and the board of education’s work to carry out the district’s mission by providing administrative support for both board meetings, as well as during daily district operations.”
Favorite food: “Is coffee a food?”
Hobbies: “I love camping with my children, going to Packer games with my dad, traveling with my husband, going for walks with my mom, chatting with my brother and listening to live music with friends.”
Most recent show you watched: “I mostly recently loved ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ on Netflix.”
What did you want to be when you grew up: “I wanted to be a teacher.”
It’s often said it’s the work of the people behind the scenes that make things happen.
The Press Times looks to highlight those contributions in a new series called Behind the Scenes.