Members of the District 91 Board of Education found themselves somewhat divided over a proposal to implement a self-policing measure after a newcomer to the group termed the exercise, brought forward by President Glenn Garlisch, as a waste of her time.
The self evaluation worksheet presented at the board’s December meeting is intended to give members another avenue to express any concerns or opinions they might have with respect to how the board conducts business, Garlisch said. It’s not clear how often the tool might be used, but the discussion that ensued assumed it would follow the board’s monthly meetings.
Board member Joan White objected, and said the process isn’t necessary because the school board isn’t a dysfunctional group. Further, she said, the questions used to spur the self evaluation need to be revised.
“It’s a waste of my time spent at the end of a meeting to determine whether we followed the agenda,” White said following the board’s discussion. “It defeats the purpose to do paperwork for the sake of paperwork.”
Garlisch brought the idea to the board after attending a workshop for school board presidents in 2007. The sample worksheet he presented includes eight questions and a space for any additional comments. Among other areas, board members are asked to evaluate one another on how well they prepared for the meeting, whether discussion was courteous and fair and if business was conducted with “a sense of responsibility.”
The questions are a bit soft, said White, because she is assuming that anybody who ran for a seat on the board will behave respectfully and come prepared.
“What I think we need is a tool that helps us evaluate our goals,” White said.
Superintendent Lou Cavallo has offered to compile whatever information might come from these critiques, but said that is essentially where his role would end. The process could prove valuable in the long term, he said, especially if a rift occurs among current board members or if a divided group is elected in the future.
“It does set some guidelines to constantly monitor what you do,” Cavallo said.
Establishing a self evaluation process of some kind is one of the board’s goals for the year, though it’s unlikely anything will be adopted at the Jan. 10 meeting. This doesn’t need to be a top priority in the short term, said Cavallo, because the group is a “high performing board.”
Following the December meeting, Garlisch suggested the evaluations could take place quarterly rather than monthly. He agreed the board is working effectively now, but said part of the reason for putting a policing tool in place is to help guarantee that.
“[White’s] lucky enough to step right into a board that is well-functioning,” Garlisch said. “She’s probably looking at this and thinking, ‘why do we have to do this.'”
Garlisch added that because a goal of any evaluation is accountability, he will consider making the evaluations available to the public so that voters can see whether they agree with the board’s own assessments.