School Board Needs More Transparency

Posted October 6th, 2017 @ 7:23 AM by

Yeah, I’ve said it before, will say it again, the school board sucks when it comes to transparency. Half the time I can’t figure out what is going on cuz I don’t spend half my life following the school board and you shouldn’t have to just to know what is going on. They have a meeting on Saturday that wasn’t in the school board week ahead this week because they finally sent the notice out late Wednesday (50 hours in advance of the meeting) and there’s the agenda tbd for the “department”, another agenda, and the real agenda.

Why does everything with them have to be so obscure?!?!?!

They catch me off guard on this several times a year. Their “system” for letting the public know what they are voting on is atrocious. First of all, just finding the Board of Education on their website is . . . well, if I was a board member, I’d raise holy hell. According to the school district, the school board is a “department”. That about says it all . . . the school district acts like the school board is a “department” to be “managed” by the administration. When in fact, the school board should be helping manage the administration (they hire the Superintendent), that runs the departments. I’m sure you see the difference.

Second of all when you find the page, they tell you some of the meetings, but not all – and provide minimal details . . . with several agendas listed as TBD, including the one on Saturday.

October 2
5 p.m.
Instruction Work Group
Middle School Start Time Update
At-Risk/Opportunity Youth Project
Pathways Year One Evaluation

October 7
8 a.m.
Board Retreat
2018-19 Strategic Framework

October 18
5 p.m.
City Education Committee
Agenda TBD

October 23
5 p.m.
Operations Work Group
2017/18 Budget/Tax Levy Final Update
2018-19 Budget Process Overview
Employee Handbook Committee Update

October 23
6:30 p.m.
Special Meeting in Open Session WORKSHOP
Charter Policy Discussion

October 25
5 p.m.
Education Resource Officer (ERO) Ad Hoc Committee
Agenda TBD

October 30
6 p.m.
Regular Meeting
Superintendent’s Report—Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN)/African American Student Strategic Council Recommendations
Public Hearing re: 2017/18 Budget Finalization
Vote: Adoption of 2017/18 Budget and Certification of Tax Levy

If you want to find out the details of what goes on each week you have to figure out the Board is “department”, once on that page you need to figure out that you need to click on either the “Board Docs” on the side of the page or the oddly placed bullet point that says Meeting Agenda and Notice right before the list above. If you click on it you go here – to “Board Docs”.

I’m not sure how you are supposed to know what to do next. To find the meetings for the week I go to Library at the top of the screen. Once at the “library” you need to click on “Legal Notice” – usually there is one every week. This week, there are two – on Wednesday October 4th they put this out where we can see the following:

Saturday, October 7 – Special Board of Education Retreat in Open Session WORKSHOP Madison College 1701 Wright Street Madison, WI 53704 Room D1630B
1. Call to Order/Opening Comments
2. Strategic Framework for 2018/19
Special Board of Education Meeting continued in Closed Session
3. Feedback on Superintendent performance and evaluation process, pursuant to Wis. Stat. Sec. 19.85(1)(c) Special Board of Education
Meeting continued in Open Session WORKSHOP
4.Board reflection-Equity Tool
5. Adjournment

That doesn’t really tell you what you need to know – to get the materials for the meeting you have to click on Meetings at the top. There are “featured meetings” or you can click on the year. All the meetings that show up in the legal notice won’t be here, only some. In this case, the meeting on Saturday is a “featured meeting” on the left hand side. If you click on that then to see the agenda you have to click on “view the agenda” which then gives you each of the agenda items which you now need to click on each individually to see the materials for each item. You can tell if there are items to look at because of the little piece of paper on the right.

Under “Call to Order/Opening Comments” there is the agenda and a document about “circle of concern

If you click on the agenda you will find the real agenda – the one that’s actually helpful. It says:

Meeting Objectives
● Build relationships
● Understand and provide feedback on outcomes, process and “structure” for Strategic Framework engagement
● Confirm vision and agree on core values that will drive next Strategic Framework

Meeting Handouts
● PowerPoint slides
● Powell article
● Potential Strategic Framework Core Values
● Engagement sessions draft materials:
● Description of research process
● Engagement sessions draft PowerPoint
● Calendar for engagement process
● Engagement process sessions
● Overview of lit and best practices review

8–8:30 a.m.
● Opening Comments – Jen/Anna
● Outcomes of Strategic Framework engagement process – Jen/Kate
8:30 – 9 a.m.
Warm Up-Nichelle
● Identity Exercise
● Debrief: What about your identity influences your core values as a leader?
9 – 9:45 a.m.
Article Discussion – “Poverty and Race Through A Belongingness Lens” – Sue
● 3 Levels of Text protocol
● Debrief: What about this article influences your thinking about our organizational core values?


10-10:45 a.m.
Core Values Discussion – Jen
● Based on where we are now, what core values do you believe are MOST important to guide our actions?
○ Quick brainstorm and share
○ Organize
○ Whole group discussion
10:45 – 11:45 a.m.
Review and feedback on engagement process:
● Review timeline
● Review “structure” for feedback sessions
● Review research design


11:45 – 12:15 p.m.
● Superintendent Evaluation Discussion
12:15 – 1 p.m.
OPEN Board Reflection – Review Equity Tool

The Strategic Framework has 7 documents attached. The link I gave you is what you get if you hit the share button to see these 7 documents, it didn’t work when I tried it. So, here’s the 7 documents:
Final BOE Retreat Deck.pdf
Potential Strategic Framework Core Values.pdf
Strategic Framework Engagement Research Process – Briefing for Oct BOE Retreat (1).pdf
Final Engagement Session deck.pdf
SF Engagement Sessions for BOE.pdf
Strategic Framework Literature and Best Practice Reviews.pdf

For the Board Reflection on the Equity Tool they have the equity tool as an attachment:
EquityToolfinal2 (1).pdf

So . . . on Wenesday evening around 6pm they send notification to school board members that the materials for the meeting were available to them – 50 hours before the meeting is scheduled to start . . .

From: Barbara J Osborn
Date: Wed, Oct 4, 2017 at 5:57 PM
Subject: Board Retreat
To: Anna M Moffit , Dean Loumos , James Howard , Jennifer P Cheatham , Katherine E Toews , Kelly M Ruppel , Mary Burke , Nicki K Vander Meulen , TJ Mertz , Laura Nicholas , Morten J Lee

Please note that the Board Retreat documents and legal notice have been uploaded and featured in BoardDocs.

Barb Osborn
Secretary to the Board of Education
Madison Metropolitan School District/545 W. Dayton Street/Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 663-1659/Fax: (608) 204-0341

and the public just has to magically notice that something has been added and then run the gauntlet to find what the ACTUAL AGENDA for the meeting is and the supporting materials.

This is crazy town. I consider myself savvy when it comes to local government, and even I miss these things all the time because these meetings aren’t there on Sunday night/Monday morning as I’m looking at the week ahead. I don’t know how someone is supposed to find these materials that are made available so late. And actually have time to read the information you’re interested in. But maybe that is their point, they don’t want you to.

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