Joanne Borin of the New Jersey School Board Association presented the results of the West Morris Regional School Board's self evaluation on Monday in order to help with goal setting and discuss the lack of trust found in the self examination.
The "not quite excellent but not terrible" audit compared each board member's individual self evaluation to that of the group as a whole. The topics for each column consisted of planning, policy, student achievements, finance, operations, performance, board/superintendent relationship, board/staff relationship and board/community relationship.
"Everyone in every area has rated themselves higher than you rated the group," Borin said. "So there's a lack of trust in the entire team in almost every area. This is not unusual; this is pretty typical, most boards have this, some boards don't have as much."
According to Borin, developing and utilizing the skills of teamwork, problem solving and decision making is "an area that can be improved, but maybe it's part of who this board is; you have to work with what you have."
Borin added that board performance was good because the members make every effort to attend all meetings prepared and having done their homework. However, the evaluations showed that working together in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect needs some work. "You may not trust each other but you should respect each other. That's just the professionalism of being board members."
Another question from the self evaluation was that the NJSBA asked each member what three major challenges were, and there was some "stuff in common, some stuff not. To name a few: agenda-driven board members; interference from self-serving politicians; failure of some board members to project a mature, professional, cooperative, collaborative, trustful manner. That goes back to trust issues."
In order to attack these trust issues, Borin suggested that the group organize a team-building retreat to spend a few hours outside of meetings together devoted to discussing how to work together.
"I'm not saying you have to like each other. You're not elected to be friends," Borin said. "But respect, maybe learn to trust each other and you'll have a better idea of where everyone wants to go."
Borin offered that goal setting was the best exercise to start team building, and the group made a list of district goals and board goals.They decided the district goals should be:
- Define student achievements and work toward that achievement;
- Define state-mandated staff evaluations and implement them;
- Update the curriculum so it aligns with core content.
The board goals were to:
- Reorganize committee structure to support district goals;
- Formulate strategic improvement plan;
- Evaluate the superintendent by April 30;
- Communicate with legislators and mayors/governing body;
- Improve boardsmanship and enhance board training.
Another part of the excercise included a list of achievements and challenges.
The gang also made a list of achievements and challenges.
The achievements were:
- hiring a new superintendent;
- revised the policy manual;
- settled the teachers' contract dispute;
- initiated a new organization structure for the administration;
- had dialogue with local mayors and local K-8s;
- made a huge improvement in advanced proficiency;
- great participation and scores in the IB program.
The challenges were:
- living with a two percent budget cap;
- working for their strategic plan;
- expanding IB to all;
- meeting new state initiatives;
- improving boardsmanship.
Borin said that the group can work on their relationship as a whole "or you can do nothing and have the majority of the board just run the meeting and the minority of overlooked."