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Who runs the show?

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POSTED: July 24, 2008 5:00 a.m.

If you are discussing schools, it is important to define what "runs the show" means. The board approves the rules (policy, student handbook), and the superintendent enforces what the board approves. The board deals with governance - setting policies and establishing a budget to provide resources. The superintendent is responsible for the day to day operation of the schools within the policies and rules approved by the board. It is the superintendent’s responsibility to make recommendations to the board from several sources - community, parents, and staff. This division of powers is not a local decision. It is set forth in the Georgia Constitution and in Standards of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and is a requirement for accreditation.

The board supervises just one employee - the superintendent. The superintendent is the only employee the board can hire without the superintendent’s recommendation. For all other staff, the superintendent must recommend, but only the board can approve for employment. The board does not interview, does not select candidates for employment, and does not meet with staff members or students regarding individual concerns.

The superintendent supervises the daily operations of the schools through the school principals. Principals attend board meetings in order to be informed about the business of and operation of the board. The superintendent meets monthly with the principals - or more often if needed - to discuss school system operations. The superintendent does not meet with teachers about concerns unless teachers first meet with their principal and then advise him or her that the resolution has not been satisfactory, and a meeting with the superintendent is desired.

A Georgia School Boards consultant met with the board for two training sessions and suggested that they have business cards with their contact information on one side and the protocol/chain of command for handling issues on the other side of the card. The card statement directs the parent to first deal with the teacher, then with the principal, then with the superintendent, and then with the board - not individual board members - for school-level issues. For system level issues, parents would deal first with the superintendent and then with the board - not with individual board members. The superintendent asks parents who call the central office to first discuss any student matter with the principal. It is the principal who has the records, who does the investigation, who deals with staff members.

In order to obtain feedback on system-level matters, the superintendent meets with a Superintendent’s Parent Advisory Council four times each year. Each member is elected by the school council (made up of parents, teachers, business people) to represent the parents of that school in quarterly meetings with the superintendent. There are 18 parents. Their names and school addresses are listed on the system website and in every edition of GOOD NEWS ABOUT BRYAN COUNTY SCHOOLS. Parents are encouraged to contact advisory members about issues or concerns. Between quarterly meetings, parent advisory members contact the superintendent as the need arises. Every other year the parent advisory group devises a parent survey which is distributed to all parents. Results are used to set budget priorities and to add programs and services. Minutes from parent advisory meetings are furnished to members, to principals, and to the board.

The superintendent meets quarterly with a Teacher Advisory Committee. Each teacher (nine schools, one teacher each) is elected to represent all of the staff in the school. The committee brings system level matters to the superintendent. The minutes of these meetings are shared with all the teachers in the schools the next day. Every other year the teacher advisory committee does a survey to send to all teachers to determine the top ten objectives for system improvement. These issues become priorities for budgeting and program planning for the system.

Both parent and teacher advisory committees have been responsible for changing numerous school rules and procedures and for adding services and programs. Students have input through visits the superintendent makes to every classroom. Questions are invited during these visits in grades three and up. In the lower grades, students are asked to discuss the instructional activity going on at that time.

For any issue, the board is the ultimate decision-maker. The school system encourages and provides mechanisms for input from the community, from parents, from staff, and from students. The best indicator of quality is the satisfaction all of those groups indicate when evaluating the progress of our schools. Whether the issue is dress code, calendar, or a myriad of other issues, the superintendent gathers information for the board, provides it far in advance of action to be taken, and then enforces on a day to day basis the actions or other directives of the board. The board supervises the superintendent and annually evaluates performance in terms of the system’s improvement plan and the approved evaluation instrument. A partnership between the superintendent and the board ensures the most productive environment for students and staff. Failure to adhere to governance by proper protocol and chain of command has resulted in other systems being placed on probation by SACS (accreditation) and may result in the ultimate loss of accreditation. Students graduating from schools which are not accredited are not eligible for HOPE Scholarships. Both the board and the superintendent welcome your input and ideas for improvements of our schools.

Written for Education Matters by Bryan County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sallie Brewer

 

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