All seven of Shirland’s Board of Education members have completed their Open Meetings Act training requirement as required by law.
As the corporate entity charged by law with governing a school district, each School Board sits in trust for its entire community. The obligation to govern effectively imposes some fundamental duties on the Board:
1. The Board Clarifies the District Purpose.
As its primary task, the Board continually defines, articulates and re-defines district ends to answer the recurring question — who gets what benefits for how much? Effective ends development requires attention to at least two key concerns: student learning and organizational effectiveness.
- Ends express the benefits the school district should deliver, thereby providing the entire system with clarity of purpose and a clear direction. A School Board rarely creates district ends; rather, it most often detects them through listening and observing.
- Ends reflect the district’s purpose, direction, priorities and desired outcomes and are recorded in statements of core values/beliefs, mission, vision and goals.
- In effective school districts, every part of the organization is aligned with the ends articulated by the School Board in written Board policy.
- Well-crafted ends enable the School Board to effectively and efficiently monitor district performance and assess organizational success (Principle 5).
2. The Board Connects With the Community.
The School Board engages in an ongoing two-way conversation with the entire community. This conversation enables the Board to hear and understand the community’s educational aspirations and desires, to serve effectively as an advocate for district improvement and to inform the community of the district’s performance.
- Effective communication is essential to create trust and support among community, Board, Superintendent and staff.
- The School Board must be aggressive in reaching out to the community – the district’s owners – to engage people in conversations about education and the public good. In contrast, people who bring customer concerns to Board members should be appropriately directed to the superintendent and staff.
- A Board in touch with community-wide concerns and values will serve the broad public good rather than being overly influenced by special interests.
3. The Board Employs a Superintendent.
The Board employs and evaluates one person – the Superintendent – and holds that person accountable for district performance and compliance with written Board policy.
- An effective School Board develops and maintains a productive relationship with the Superintendent.
- The employment relationship consists of mutual respect and a clear understanding of respective roles, responsibilities and expectations. This relationship should be grounded in a thoughtfully crafted employment contract and job description; procedures for communications and ongoing assessment; and reliance on written policy.
- Although the Board is legally required to approve all employment contracts, the Board delegates authority to the Superintendent to select and evaluate all district staff within the standards established in written Board policy.
4. The Board Delegates Authority.
The Board delegates authority to the Superintendent to manage the district and provide leadership for the staff. Such authority is communicated through written Board policies that designate district ends and define operating parameters.
- Ultimately, the School Board is responsible for everything, yet must recognize that everything depends upon a capable and competent staff.
- “Delegates authority to” means empowering the Superintendent and staff to pursue Board ends single mindedly and without hesitation. A Board that does (or re-does) staff work disempowers the staff. High levels of Superintendent and staff accountability require high levels of delegation.
- Delegation is difficult for anyone accustomed to direct action. However, to appropriately stay focused on the big picture and avoid confusing the staff, members of the School Board must discipline themselves to trust their Superintendent and staff and not involve themselves in day-to-day operations.
5. The Board Monitors Performance.
The Board constantly monitors progress toward district ends and compliance with written Board policies using data as the basis for assessment.
- A School Board that pursues its ends through the delegation of authority has a moral obligation to itself and the community to determine whether that authority is being used as intended.
- Unless the Board is clear about what it wants, there is no valid way to measure progress and compliance.
- A distinction should be made between monitoring data (used by the Board for accountability) and management data (used by the staff for operations).
- The constructive use of data is a skill that must be learned. The Board should have some understanding of data, but will typically require guidance from the staff.
6. The Board Takes Responsibility For Itself.
The Board, collectively and individually, takes full responsibility for Board activity and behavior – the work it chooses to do and how it chooses to do the work. Individual Board members are obligated to express their opinions and respect others’ opinions; however, Board members understand the importance of the Board ultimately speaking with one clear voice.
- The School Board’s role as trustee for the community is unique and essential to both the district and community.
- While the Board must operate within legal parameters, good governance requires the Board be responsible for itself, its processes and contributions. Board deliberations and actions are limited to Board work, not staff work.
- The Board seeks continuity of leadership, even as it experiences turnover in membership. The Board accomplishes this by using written Board policies to guide Board operations, by providing thorough orientation and training for all members, and by nurturing a positive and inviting Board culture.
Opens Meetings Act Exceptions for Closed Meetings
The exceptions authorize or allow, but do not require,
closed meetings to discuss a subject covered by an exception.
No final action is allowed in closed meetings. Those exceptions
which apply to schools are the following: “A public
body may hold closed meetings to consider the following
1) The appointment, employment, compensation, discipline,
performance, or dismissal of specific employees of the
public body or legal counsel for the public body, including
hearing testimony on a complaint lodged against an employee
of the public body or against legal counsel for the public
body to determine its validity.
2) Collective negotiating matters between the public
body and its employees or their representatives, or deliber-
ations concerning salary schedules for one or more classes of
3) The selection of a person to fill a public office, as
defined in this Act, including a vacancy in a public office,
when the public body is given power to appoint under law or
ordinance, or the discipline, performance or removal of the
occupant of a public office, when the public body is given
power to remove the occupant under law or ordinance.
4) Evidence or testimony presented in an open hearing,
or in closed hearing where specifically authorized by law, to
a quasi-adjudicative body, as defined in this Act, provided
that the body prepares and makes available for public
inspection a written decision setting forth its determinative
5) The purchase or lease of real property for the use of
the public body, including meetings held for the purpose of
discussing whether a particular parcel should be acquired.
6) The setting of a price for sale or lease of property
owned by the public body.
7) The sale or purchase of securities, investments, or
8) Security procedures and the use of personnel and
equipment to respond to an actual, a threatened, or a reasonably
potential danger to the safety of employees, students,
staff, the public, or public property.
9) Student disciplinary cases.
10) The placement of individual students in special education
programs and other matters relating to individual
11) Litigation, when an action against, affecting or on
behalf of the particular public body has been filed and is
pending before a court or administrative tribunal, or when
the public body finds that an action is probable or imminent,
in which case the basis for the finding shall be recorded
and entered into the minutes of the closed meeting.
12) The establishment of reserves or settlement of
claims as provided in the Local Governmental and
Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act, if otherwise
the disposition of a claim or potential claim might be prejudiced,
or the review or discussion of claims, loss or risk management
information, records, data, advice or communications
from or with respect to any insurer of the public body
or any intergovernmental risk management association or
self insurance pool of which the public body is a member.
13) Informant sources, the hiring or assignment of
undercover personnel or equipment, or ongoing, prior or
future criminal investigations, when discussed by a public
body with criminal investigatory responsibilities.
14) Self evaluation, practices and procedures or professional
ethics, when meeting with a representative of a
statewide association of which the public body is a member.
15) Discussion of minutes of meetings lawfully closed
under this Act, whether for purposes of approval by the
body of the minutes or semi-annual review of the minutes as
mandated by Section 2.06.”