MANATEE -- Here are the Top 10 things you need to know from Monday's school board training session -- a communication workshop usually held every time the board's makeup changes -- led by Florida School Boards Association Director of Board Development Andrea Messina.
1. This was Dave "Watchdog" Miner's first training session after being elected to the District 2 seat Nov. 6. It is also one of the few opportunities board members have to specifically talk about working together and building a vision.
"The point is to embrace this opportunity to become five and eventually six people that work toward a common goal," interim superintendent David Gayler said as the meeting opened.
2. Gayler started the morning off with a suggestion: A series of town hall meetings could be key to building trust back in the district and gauging how the district wants to move forward. He envisioned 55 meetings, held in different communities throughout the county, and a question: What do you want this school district to have, do and be?
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"It's a time-consumer," Gayler said. "But if you incorporate this entire community into your conversation, you will make a giant leap into developing a relationship with the community."
3. Many board members struggled with this idea. The October public hearings on the superintendent search were sparsely attended. Some questioned whether that would be a good use of resources. They said they don't need a public meeting to tell them what people want.
"They are mad at all of us," board vice-chair Julie Aranibar said. "It's like do your job please. Or leave." Board member Bob Gause suggested tapping into
Student Advisory Committees or PTOs for feedback, but focus more on action.
4. Quote of the morning, from Miner: "People come up to me all the time to tell me things we need to be doing. ... Not one of them has said, 'Dave, we need more town hall meetings.'"
5. Specific five-year goals discussed at Monday's meeting: To build the reserve fund to 5 to 7 percent. To provide better wages for teachers. To design a working budget. To perform ongoing audits in multiple areas. To increase field trips.
6. Non-specific five-year goals discussed at Monday's meeting: To promote policies that engender trust. To create a sense of collaboration and family. To emphasize the positives. To involve more parents and students in decision-making.
7. The process of which things get put on the agenda is a major divisive issue for the board.
Messina has noticed the change since Aranibar and Carpenter joined in 2010, noting, "I think the displeasure with the agenda has caused more problems with the board and the staff."
In the past, various board members struggled with the inability to get information on agenda items quickly before meetings, items moving on and off the consent item agenda and understanding the role of the chairman in sharing that information.
Miner said the district needs to do a better job of explaining agenda items, and make the question-asking process easier and more open. Questions from board members on agenda items could be made public, so others would have to ask district staff the same questions separately.
Board members wondered if they should consider switching the format of meetings to that of other districts that hold workshops before board meetings so that all board members can get on the same page before a brief, formal meeting.
A future workshop will be scheduled so the board can discuss revamping their agenda policy.
8. How will the board achieve their goals? They aren't sure yet. But much depends on finding a new superintendent and figuring out the district's finances.
Two important dates are coming up.
At 4 p.m. Dec. 4, the board will hold a workshop where Gayler will present findings on continuous unbudgeted items in the district.
At 6 p.m. Dec. 5, theboard will attend but not participate in the first citizens review committeefor the superintendentsearch. Both meetings will be held in the Branscomb Room of the Student Support Center.
9. A board creed created by the old board just three weeks ago will have to be reevaluated because Miner has yet to agree on the principles outlined.
10. One thing the board seemed to settle on Monday. After the results of the ongoing forensic investigation are released, there will be a press conference where board members speak on the record and as a unit, after reviewing the information.
"I want to be able to get into the nuts and bolts of it," Miner said.
Katy Bergen, Herald education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.