Millie Beall: Leader of dissent
Here I sit, in Lhasa, Tibet, and all I can think about are the years I served the Steamboat Springs School District from 1992 to 2000, with four of those years as president of the board.
During the 1990s, we spent a lot of our time at conferences and conventions. We learned about best and worst educational practices. The experts emphasized that we should pay attention to our job descriptions. They would say, “Read your job description. Is that what you are doing right now?” Most boards were paying more attention to micro-management.
A board’s duty is to create policy for the district based on the needs of the community and the children, to hire good people and then to let them do their jobs.
“Site-Based Management” was a concept that gave autonomy to principals and to teachers. It is the job of the teacher to have successful classroom outcomes based on their own professional delivery. It is the duty of the manager of those teachers (the principal) to ensure that staff members are successfully meeting their goals for their students’ education. Our board believed this was the most respectful and efficient way to direct our district.
We hired Cyndy Simms as superintendent. Dr. Simms was chosen the No. 1 candidate by a community interview group, a teacher interview group, support staff interview group and an administrative staff interview group.
We found that if policy was not written well, it does not give enough direction to staff as to what the final outcome should be for their students. Consequently, we began to be educated about policy governance. Policy governance is a process of writing policy in a manner and form that states the desired outcomes, states what the board will retain as its decision-making and then, outside of those parameters, the sky is the limit as to how the professional educators within the buildings meet their outcomes.
From the beginning, there was a certain amount of dissent and the respect we worked to create with this form of management was questioned. As a manager, it is the job of the principals to implement board decisions, yet John DeVincentis was constantly a leader of dissension, creating an atmosphere within the district that was detrimental to the education of our children.
Simms always conducted herself in the most professional manner. But there was always friction and a lack of teamwork due to one member of the administrative team – John DeVincentis. This subversive activity of deceit and animosity has been going on for years.
Working with Dr. Simms and my various boards, we were able to accomplish so many things -Yampa Valley Legacy Education Initiative, 10+2, a new high school, collaborative bargaining, school based performance awards, initiation of and renewal of the half-cent sales tax three times, mill levy override to increase teacher pay, Kitchen Table group, etc : We did this despite the constant undermining of John DeVincentis.
DeVincentis despised being held accountable by anyone above him in the management ladder … all superintendents and boards. He made that perfectly clear on many occasions.
So now, this is what you have – an elected school board member who has been finally revealed. The e-mails, proof of his agenda “…to take on the administration.” I personally know that is the case. I have always known that. Ask any school board member from the past decade. Now, the attack is on your present superintendent, one of the most professional and dedicated individuals that we have been blessed to have.
Step up to the plate. These are your schools and your children who depend on your actions and decisions. Serve on your School Board, spend some time to help straighten things out to benefit our greatest natural resources – our children.
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