Manatee school board members, Mills define key moral values

eearl@bradenton.comAugust 6, 2013 

The Manatee County School Board: Linda Carpenter, left, Bob Gause, Julie Aranibar, Dave "Watchdog" Miner and Barbara Harvey. Manatee County School District photo.

MANATEE -- Two weeks before students return to school, the Manatee County School Board, along with Superintendent Rick Mills, met Monday morning to discuss its mission and values.

The training session was held after eight schools in the district received F grades this year.

Andrea Messing, director of board development for the Florida School Board Association, led the training.

Messing told the school board members they need to come up with a concrete list of core values to follow in every meeting.

"If you don't discuss your values, they may be assumed by others," Messing said. "There will be a disconnect if you are not holding each other accountable."

Messing used Facebook as an example of a large organization with key values of note, including moving fast and being open.

"If this occurs in a mammoth organization, it should

be able to occur here," Messing said.

The school board members brainstormed for seven key values Messing said the whole district should be able to fall back on when under pressure.

"You are all the governance group, let's see if your values align," Messing said.

Mills and the board decided their values are: honesty, integrity, excellence, public service, community engagement, leadership and learning. The board mission statement does include some of these values, but Messing said they need to be more evident.

"If you are sincere and show me that this is important to you, I can get behind you," Messing said. "At the next board meeting, I would want to hear these themes."

School board chairwoman Karen Carpenter said stressing these values should not be reserved strictly for meetings.

"You don't want to create silos. All values are interconnected," Carpenter said.

Mills advocated "winning" to be one of the seven key values.

"We should seek to be first," Mills said.

But school board members had concerns with that.

"It has the connotation of short-term gains at the expense of long-term success," school board member Robert Gause said.

Messing suggested the school board host quarterly reviews to assess their commitment to these values, and Mills agreed, although he hinted that he would have led that decision without Messing.

"You hired me to be the pro," Mills said. "As we move forward, we have to be inclusive with our board members."

The next school board meeting is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. Monday.

Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.

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