In a special meeting last week devoted to self-evaluation, Douglas County school board members agreed to connect all future agenda items to the district's annual strategic plan.
The discussion began when board member Tom Moore presented a summary of last year's agenda items. By his own standards, he said that only 96 of 130 agenda items were directly related to education, and therefore gave the board an effectiveness rate of 74 percent.
As examples of ineffectiveness, he pointed to the board's repeated consideration of student surveys, its involvement with the district calendar, and, ironically, multiple discussions on the board's own self-evaluation.
"There were six board meetings where we talked about the self-evaluation," he said. "That's a lot of time and effort that could have been put into other items."
As for the district calendar, Moore argued it should be completed administratively, not by the board.
"We should not be spending a whole lot of time providing our personal opinions on what the calendar should be," he said. "It's not productive."
Trustee Cindy Trigg, who participated in the self-evaluation via phone, agreed with Moore about the student surveys. She argued the board should be spending its time on the implementation of Common Core State Standards and other national reforms.
"I don't think enough is out there yet to say this is something we need in our district," she said of the surveys.
Other board members disagreed with Moore's characterization.
"To me, these other things support education, and I don't mind spending time on them," said Board Clerk Karen Chessell. "If we don't give time for the community to speak on these things, then we'll hear about it."
Vice President Teri Jamin suggested agenda items tie in with the district's strategic plan. At least two board members must request the same item before it is placed on any given agenda.
"I think some of these items do relate to education," Jamin said, agreeing with Chessell.
Revised and approved each year, the strategic plan is the board and administration's working framework of goals and strategies.
The mission of the 2012-13 plan is to "ensure that all students achieve excellence in education, character and citizenship." Its six primary goals are the following: implement a rigorous and relevant curriculum; ensure excellence in instruction; utilize assessments and data to monitor and measure growth and achievement; maintain positive climate and culture providing safe and nurturing learning environments; incorporate parent and community partnerships to maximize positive impact on student success; and create and implement effective and efficient systems that improve customer service and maximize available resources.
Going forward, Superintendent Lisa Noonan said she would provide board members with concise reports in the fall detailing how student results from the prior year reflect the strategic plan.
"We're in consensus and agree that when future agenda items are requested, the person has an obligation to explain how it ties into the strategic plan," said Board President Sharla Hales. "We want to be conscious and deliberate about how we spend our time."
"Overall, do we do a good job?" asked Moore. "Yes."
n In other news, school board members unanimously approved a contract for roughly 400 classified employees that was delayed earlier in the month due to timing issues.
Douglas County Support Staff Organization President Nancy Hamlett confirmed that the union's membership had ratified the contract since the board's last meeting.
In December, during holiday break, an independent arbitrator ruled that step increases and longevity pay only apply to the term of a contract and must be negotiated beyond that.
In a previous interview, DCSD Human Resources Director Rich Alexander said the pay increases would affect only 74 employees and cost $56,000 throughout the 2011-13 contract. The increases will be applied retroactively for the previous year and remain in place until the end of June.
Other highlights of the contract include more specificity regarding progressive discipline, clarification of language regarding reductions in force, and changing the district's health insurance contribution for each employee to $585 per month.