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District and Board issues, stakeholders in education

Joseph Hanson lives in a small community in southern California with a school district that serves approximately 4800 students. He is a parent of two boys and one girl. His oldest son is academically gifted and filled with a love of learning that's evident regardless of who his teacher has been along the way. His daughter is academically satisfactory but has found great success as a three sport athlete in high school. While she has yet to connect with her teachers in a way that challenges her, the coaches in all three of her sports have acted as terrific mentors as they encourage her to pursue athletics at the college level. Joseph has been pleased with the success of his oldest son and daughter, but his concerns and energy have been focused on his youngest son Kyle. Along with his wife he has been actively engaged in his education and has worked diligently to support the educational progress of all students as they volunteers on a weekly basis at school. Joseph and his wife had hoped that their presence on campus would allow them to develop meaningful partnerships with the staff in a way that would lead to better support for Kyle, but unfortunately that has not been the case.

Problem
Kyle, while struggling academically, would not be a student that you might classify as "special needs." Because of this, he has not qualified for any special interventions. All of his teachers have felt that he is the cusp of proficiency and will most likely make it. The problem is that he never does. He is the classic case of a sub-satisfactory student academically that masquerades as "proficient". After numerous appeals to support Kyle and students like him are ignored, Joseph decides to attend a school board meeting in search of answers.

Upon attending the school board meeting, Joseph receives a copy of the district's strategic plan. He reads about the priorities to support gifted students in gaining scholarships to college, and plans to improve all athletic facilities in a way that "can make our town proud!" As the board meeting gets underway, the agenda that has been advertised to the community focusing on the new district's bullying policy and data driven intervention plan, has now been replaced with a single topic agenda dedicated to approving the new salary increase for all district staff members. Joseph leaves the meeting appalled. He goes out in search of answers to questions like:

How are citizens with no understanding about education elected in the first place?
What is expected to take place at a board meeting and how much can a citizen expect to be accomplished by a district whose board meets once a month?
What steps can a parent take to be a part of school-wide solutions at the site level?
After participating on a school site council for a year, Joseph has decided that his role on the council is simply to approve budgets that the principal and district were supportive of in the first place. Because of his lack of fulfillment in the process, he decides to run for the school board. His positive spirit resonates with the community as the vast majority of the voters select him as the newest member of the board of five.

From the beginning of his term in office, Joseph's proposals to his colleagues as well as district office personnel appeared to be ignored. His suggestions about how to offer more autonomy to the seven schools within his district are replaced with ideas on how to mandate uniform steps to ensure that all teachers within each school are participating in the same curriculum that are aligned to state standards. In spite of the data that shows that this approach has not worked for the last 15 years, the subjective opinions of the rest of the board always win over. It hasn't taken long for him to notice that there are no specific methods for how decisions are made by the board, and he is surprised at how willing the superintendent is to go along with the recommendations of the elected officials.

During a private conversation over breakfast, the superintendent confides in Joseph about his frustration with the board. He shares of the progressive ideas that he has for the district and about the steps that he wants to take to develop exceptional success for every student. Finally, this well educated superintendent with a doctorate degree shares that he is considering leaving the district in search of a venue that might allow him to be more progressive and move beyond the small town politics that are encouraging mediocrity. He shares about his exhaustion in dealing with the day to day scandals, complaints, and politics of education. He, like Joseph, wants to be a part of a community in search of better ways to support their neediest students through approaches that are focused on data and results.

Designing a Solution

Try to come up with a solution for Joseph by answering the following questions:

What issues at the board and district level appear to be evident at the site level as well? Why is this the case?
What are the key issues that are impeding the success that both Joseph and the Superintendent want for their community?
Because this board is absent of any systems that guide their decision making, what protocols might you set up immediately?
Which stakeholders might you bring into the mix in an effort to both generate and implement forward thinking solutions for the district?
If you were Joseph, how would you respond to the superintendent's frustration and consideration to leave the district?

Solution Preview

What issues at the board and district level appear to be evident at the site level as well? Why is this the case?

The issues that appear to be prevalent within the board and district levels are that the board members do not listen to progressive ideals being proposed by individuals such as the superintendent and Joseph. These entities appear to follow a bureaucratic process that eschews any new ideas that could potentially move the district forward. Therefore, the ability to change the discussion and provide different views is stifled in both the local board and district levels.

What are the key issues that are impeding the success that both Joseph and the Superintendent want for their ...

Solution Summary

The expert examines the district and board issues for stakeholders in education.

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