Sound Off for Sept. 29, 2002

On policy governance

Let it be known that the only people touting this policy governance are the school board, the superintendent and this newspaper, the latter of which has an editor, Scott Stanford, whose wife, Kelly Stanford, is the director of content standards and works directly for the superintendent. Let the majority speak. Ask a teacher. But wait, they can’t thanks to policy governance.

I think there are elements of policy governance that are very good. I do not think the board should be involved in the day-to-day operation of the school district. That should be the superintendent’s job. But I do feel that policy governance is being used currently to sidestep issues the board should be involved in. Namely, when the superintendent is part of the problem, then the public and members of the staff have to be able to approach the board to discuss those issues. If the superintendent is part of the problem, you can’t expect individuals to deal with her directly on those issues.

Paul Fisher’s explanation of policy governance in the Sunday Pilot & Today made it sound like an efficient way to manage a business. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked effectively in our school district. Let’s take the example of Dr. DeVincentis who received a poor evaluation and whose salary was frozen as a result. Mr. Fisher indicates that the board wants input from the parents and teachers who need to use the proper channels. The parents communicated through the Parent Perception Survey and the virtues survey at Strawberry Park Elementary that they were very satisfied with the way the school is run and with the virtues program. The teachers used the principal evaluation to express satisfaction with the performance of the principal. Certainly these are proper channels, but the input was ignored in the evaluation process. Apparently so was the data from the CSAP scores that placed Strawberry Park in the top 5 percent of schools in Colorado. A danger of policy governance is that a single evaluator, the superintendent, can evaluate personality rather that performance. Other input is funneled through the superintendent and may, at her discretion, be ignored, as is the case with Dr. DeVincentis. Communication lines are closed and a power struggle ensues that benefits no one. Is policy governance a good thing? No.

Policy governance is a charade. Board members state that it empowers people to make decisions, creating more minds working on getting things right. They use the class-size issue as an example. The truth is teachers were never asked for our thoughts concerning class size and how it affects the education of students. Who better knows the impact than those who interact directly with students? Who gets shut out of the process? Policy governance is designed to silence voices. The board stated policy governance holds staff responsible for supporting board and administrative policies and the decisions resulting from those policies. Translation Dissent is not welcome. All policy governance has done is incite staff and community members because decisions have not been made in the best interest of students. Energy is directed away from students and teaching to deal with crisis after crisis. The board refuses to get involved until the poop hits the fan. The board fiddles while Rome burns.

Paul Fisher can talk until he is blue in the face, but this board of education has made it clear it does not want to hear word one from teachers in the school district. In fact, the horror stories of what has happened when some teachers have contacted the board would make anyway leery of ever doing it again, no matter what the board members say. Why would anyone ever bother to vote for school board? They obviously have no intention of representing us. Mr. Sharp tries to intimidate people who come before the board. Well, congratulations Mr. Sharp. You have intimidated me. I won’t ever come to this board with an issue. Aren’t you proud of yourself?

I believe John DeVincentis deserves more support from the school board than he has been getting.

It’s obvious policy governance is flawed. One person has too much power and there are no checks and balances. It may run efficiently for most of the time, but when we have a great principal like Dr. D being scrutinized and not treated fairly, I think there is something definitely wrong.

Policy governance is top down. It works in some businesses and organizations, but in my opinion, it does not work in our school district.

Steamboat Springs is one of only two school districts in the state that use policy governance. Does that make us smarter than the majority or na?

It’s very clear that the superintendent is out to get Dr. D. It would be a great disservice to the school district to lose the best principal we have.

We moved here because in the “At a Glance” put out by the Chamber of Commerce, the average student-to-teacher ratio for kindergarten through fifth grade was 13-to-1 and we now learn it’s 20-to-1? What is going on with our school district?

I’m not in favor of policy governance, especially the way it is handled here. I think it gives too much power to the superintendent and discourages any other administrator or staff member from voicing any possible grievances or problems when they arise. We should want our staff to challenge the system and make sure our kids come first. Policy governance does not encourage that.

Heck no, I don’t support policy governance. Why would I want the public out of public education? The public needs to be involved in every aspect of public education and that happens through a publicly elected school board that will listen to the public’s concerns and dictate to the superintendent what will happen.

I have been a parent in the school system for four years. For the last three years, the school board and the superintendent have been trying to put fewer and fewer teachers in the school and more students in the classroom, and we have caught them trying to do this a number of times without this being brought up at a board meeting. So I don’t trust anyone who serves on the board and I don’t trust the superintendent. If the board or the superintendent are trying to get rid of Dr. D, then they are nuts. If he goes, my children will transfer to Christian Heritage.

I think it’s wrong what the school board and school district are doing to Dr. D. He is a good principal.

I think most people don’t understand policy governance and how it is used in our school. But people do know Dr. D. is what our school is about. He is the reason our kids have a wonderful school to attend. He is the reason for our school’s high test scores, happy kids and a wonderful curriculum. He is 100 percent sincere and has our kids’ best interest at heart. If Dr. D goes, we are out of there as well, and I am not alone on this thought.

I have two children attending Strawberry Park Elementary School and I think Dr. D is doing a wonderful job. I think the school district should do whatever it needs to do to keep him as principal.

Policy governance might have worked at Dow Chemical, but it sure does not work here in our school district. There is a huge lack of communication.

It’s a real shame that the Educational Fund Board, which was originally funded to provide small class sizes, has now started to disperse our funds into other areas and funding small class sizes doesn’t seem to be a priority anymore. It’s time for the board to open their eyes and find out what is really going on.

No, I do not support the board’s system of policy governance. It sounds good in principle, but in reality, it gives too much power to one person. In this case, that would be the superintendent.

Being one of the educators in the schools, I know that policy governance was not supported by our teachers. I believe that it gives control to one person. Comments made in the newspaper do not reflect what is happening in our school district. Our board does not get involved. The board never comes into our schools or into our classrooms. Leaving control up to one person eventually leads to mass conflict that cannot be resolved.

Reading Paul Fisher’s comments about policy governance, it sounds like a bunch of double speak to me. I wonder how principals, teachers and parents feel about policy governance. How many of them even know what it is?

Policy governance does not seem to be working properly. In the last three years, we have now lost three principals. Cheryl Sage, then Sandy Hall and now John DeVincentis, who is probably one of the best principals in the state. If so many principals have found this is a place where they don’t want to work, maybe there is something wrong with our leader, our board or our policies.

Policy governance? No. You should ask teachers in the district how they feel about working in an environment where you don’t dare speak up.

In one short opinion, this gives excess power to the superintendent and precludes staff members from addressing the school board. As a result, staff concerns, suggestions and grievances could be filtered and twisted by the superintendent. Good administrators and teachers need to be heard, and need to challenge the system to ensure high quality education for our children. If policy governance remains, it requires modification to allow the staff to be heard without punishment.

Vote ‘no’ on consolidation

The City Council says consolidation of the City and Mount Werner District Water and Sewer services will take the politics out of water and sewer services. Politics is the voice of the voters, and the voters will have no voice in the proposed water authority, and they won’t have any control over it. Vote “no” on consolidation if you don’t want to lose control of your water supply.

Do we want to grow?

After reading Becky Zimmerman’s comments on the front page of Friday’s newspaper made at the Mountain Resort Planning Conference, I couldn’t help but ask myself a few questions. First of all, why is an economy that’s not growing seen as declining and why do we need to continue to grow? What’s with stabilizing where we are now? I believe that continued growth will only lead to us becoming another Vail or Aspen. And I think we need to seriously think about whether or not that’s where we want to go.

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