Today we continue with responses to the questionnaire we developed with reader input for the candidates running for Shawnee Mission School Board. Today’s item is:
The current school board frequently takes actions with little or no discussion during board meetings and usually by unanimous vote. Over recent years, people who have appeared in person to address the board complained of not receiving a reaction or followup from the board. What is the board’s responsibility to the public? How can the board be more effective?
At-Large Seat Candidates
The SMSD School Board as well as the District Administration has an obligation to maintain and foster a strong two-way line of communication with the patrons, parents, students and staff of the district. When patrons and parents participate in open forum at board meetings, there should be a response to their question during the course of the meeting or an acknowledgement that a response is forthcoming. Additionally, there can be ways to respond to questions and concerns raised at board meetings by presenters (as well as received via email, etc.) such as a structured response process to include a follow up phone call or email from the appropriate board or staff member. As for other ways to improve engagement and communication, I will look to have a board member website and/or email newsletter method of communication with constituents much like those of our local state representatives. This way, interested citizens can follow several sources and methods of communication to stay informed and up to date. As for additional methods of engagement, I suggest the SMSD explore a more expanded “committee structure” where both board members and non-board members are appointed to serve on standing committees that address specific subject areas and provide input into the overall decision making process.
The board should listen, communicate, and act as the people who elected them would want them to act. Closed door communications cannot build the trust within the community and more immediate feedback should be given to its patrons.
SM North Area Seat Candidates
Board members meet “one on one” with the Superintendent each month to discuss issues, community input and potential agenda items. All Board members receive face to face discussions, telephone calls and emails from their respective constituents regarding any issues that the community has regarding the District. With respect to specific Board meetings, we receive the agendas well in advance so that clarification of individual questions may be asked – prior to a Board meeting. Unanimity is the strength of well considered, well reviewed ideas, policies and procedures. During the public forum portion of any board meeting, anyone wishing to voice their opinion is given the opportunity to speak. However, the Board does not typically comment during the meeting as “off the cuff” commentary is both inadvisable and unfair to any concerned patron or interested party of the District who has taken the time and interest to address the Board. We owe our community a considered response as called for on any issue. Follow-up should occur either by the Superintendent or other staff members depending on the issue. Please remember, not all comments addressed to the Board fall into the category of being followed up on with comments or commentary. However, if speakers to Board meetings feel neglected, then the Board can be more effective by addressing this issue and insure that the process described above is clear to all those who come to voice their commentary. I can assure the Shawnee Mission District community from personal experience that interested parties do reach out to individual Board members thru email, phone calls and/or face to face meetings.
Did not respond.
Tomorrow the candidates respond to our fifth questionnaire item:
Why are you the most qualified person to occupy this seat on the board?