The following are the comments I made to the Board of Education during their meeting on October 27, 2008:
Your key campaign promise in this levy effort is Accountable Education. You have promised to create an Auditing and Accountability Committee to monitor and report on the fiscal operations of the district.
While that's commendable, you're putting the cart before the horse.
We're in a battle to find ways to maintain the level of excellence in our schools while keeping the cost affordable for the community. One could argue that dealing with the tension between those two dimensions is the primary responsibility of the School Board.
A key to doing that is effective long-range strategic planning. You don't win the battle though auditing or by holding people accountable after the fact. A friend of mine once said that auditors are the people who come in after the battle and shoot the wounded.
I would have been more impressed if you had also said that you were forming a Strategic Planning Team.
Because the issue here is trust. Trust is increased when you do three things.
- Say what you intend to do. In other words – Communicate your Plan
- Actually do what you said you were going to do
- Evaluate and report on your performance relative to the Plan, and then make adjustments. This is where auditing and accountability comes into play – at the end of the process.
Right now, you still need a strategic plan. Maybe you have one, but haven't communicated it to the public. But I don't think you have one. It should have been the central topic for your Board retreat this summer. Instead that session was mostly spent receiving staff reports, not planning.
I know what strategic planning looks like. I spent a good part of my career as a high level executive in a large corporation. I'm here to help if you want it. If you want nothing to do with me – that's fine. There are other experienced executives in our community who I'm sure are better planners than me.
The point is that you need a plan, and you need to communicate the plan. Then you execute the plan and keep the public informed how you're doing compared to the plan. And because every plan is obsolete the moment you put it on paper, you need to commit to continuously reviewing the plan and adjusting it so that it stays relevant as conditions change.
Don't surprise the public. Give us your long-range view and allow us to help you shape it into a plan for our future.
Let the professionals you have hired deal with running the educational operations. None of you are experts in this field anyway. Your job is all about trust, because that's what is needed for our education professionals to have access to the funding they require to do the job we expect of them.
It starts with a plan. Let me know how I can help.
ps - If asked, I would certainly serve on this committee, even though I think their concept and the charter for this committee is flawed.