BY BENJAMIN J. GOHS, EDITOR
Goals, responsibilities, expectations and strategy regarding Boyne City Public Schools and its new superintendent Patrick Little were outlined at last week’s Boyne school board work session.
Prior to its regular monthly meeting on Monday Aug. 8, the Boyne City Public Schools Board of Education held the work session so the new superintendent’s 90-day transition plan details could be discussed.
“I’m not sure that there’s a lot of clarity on what’s in place right now,” Little said of the school system’s current strategic plan. “So, my proposal is … that we really simplify what we’re trying to do on that.”
Little started the transition plan by asking school board members to write in notebooks provided to them what they feel the superintendent’s duties should be.
“What you hired me to do was to evolve into a highly effective superintendent,” Little said. “And, the seven of you all have ideas on what that means.”
Highly Effective Super’
Boyne City Public Schools Board of Education Secretary Bea Reinhardt said Little should keep board members informed.
Boyne City Public Schools Board of Education President Ken Schrader said Little should maintain and uphold board policies.
Boyne City Public Schools Board of Education Trustee Lisa Schrock said the superintendent should delegate duties to the proper individuals.
Boyne City Public Schools Board of Education Trustee Bob South said Little should develop and nurture new ways to be effective.
Boyne City Public Schools Board of Education Vice-President Jeff Mercer said Little should provide oversight over school administrators and employees.
Boyne City Public Schools Board of Education Treasurer Ross McLane said, “keep us legal—out of court, out of jail—and looking good.”
Boyne City Public Schools Board of Education Trustee Zareena Koch said part of Little’s job is to figure how best to apply best practices in various situations.
Other desirable superintendent qualities/actions the board mentioned: being a good communicator, acting as the figurehead of the school district, negotiating fair contracts while maintaining a good financial position for the school system, implement/evaluate/adjust/repeat, be clear with expectations, be honest with the board, help filter wants versus needs of administrators/departments during budget time, be a good listener/communicator to all employees and other stakeholders, and keeping a focus on student growth.
Little said the topic of student growth needs further discussion.
“We have had really successful student growth in the past and part of … our challenge is, as the state continues to evolve, and new tools are developed, is how do we succinctly talk about our student growth in a way that parents can understand, teachers can use,” said Little. “I think there’s a lot of development here in the next year or two for this student growth piece.”
Highly Effective Board
Little then asked board members to answer the question: what is a board member’s job within the school board.
Reinhardt said listening to the people in the community is important.
Schrader said it is important to present a positive image of the district to the community.
Schrock said board members should be fiscally responsible with taxpayer money.
South said they need to provide administrators the tools they need to best perform their duties.
Mercer said one of the most important jobs of the board is to evaluate the super.
McLane said the main jobs are to hire/fire superintendents and establish policies.
Koch said it is important to openly and constructively communicate issues even when they are difficult to discuss.
“One of the things you signed up for when you became a board member was all the positives,” said Little, “but, some of the tough times, too.”
Other qualities which constitute an effective board member: be prepared, good communication, give feedback to the superintendent, provide budgetary guidance, be strategic and forward-thinking, support and guide the superintendent, manage and promote election/millage/bond processes, oversee the direction of the district, and seek outside expertise when necessary.
Little said he will refine the list of superintendent and board duties and expectations to keep for future guidance.
“You can see how our success is one thing, right—it’s not board success and superintendent success—it is all of us doing our job collaboratively,” he said. “The differences there are not that great in those lists… Your job is very similar to my job in a lot of ways.”
New laws regarding superintendent evaluations take effect this upcoming school year.
Little told the board that everything regarding a school superintendent’s evaluation may be obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request—which any citizen may file for a great many kinds of public documents.
“It’s gonna be really different from what you’ve done in the past but you’re going to get the same kind of information passed on to me but it’s just going to be organized in a way that meets the law,” said Little.
In the spring of 2017, certain information regarding evaluations must be posted on the school’s website.
Also, board members must participate in a two-step process to become trained to use the evaluation tools.
Little said the Michigan Association of School Boards’ evaluation tool is the best and most user-friendly.
One of the major changes in how evaluations are performed—for administrators and staff alike—involves proof of performance.
“That is how evaluations have changed in the last couple years,” said Little. “For example: for teachers, we can’t just say, ‘Well, I think this of this teacher.’ We have to have evidence which supports the observation.”
Little said, by law, only those who are trained may participate in the evaluations.