Q2. In what ways might you foster stronger communication between the school board and all school staff? The school board and the community?
During the process of creating a Vision Statement a few years ago, problems with communication were identified as a pervasive problem facing the district. Even prior to that time, the board recognized this problem and tried a number of initiatives to encourage meaningful dialog between themselves and their various stakeholders. The board began to host listening sessions preceding the first board meeting each month, rotating board members responsible for this task to better encourage a diverse public attendance. The board carefully planned and executed a comprehensive mechanism to solicit staff and community input to create a comprehensive Vision Statement that reflects the values of the Evansville community. The board encouraged district business manager Doreen Treuden in her efforts to increase the transparency of the budget process by providing public presentations and soliciting community input at various stages. District Administrator Jerry Roth has reinforced the concept of open and honest interaction in many initiatives he has implemented in his short tenure. I believe the board and the district is on the right track and has shown ownership and a desire to improve in this critical area. I would encourage them to continue on this path while seeking new ways to foster positive interactions with staff and community. I would recommend a column in the paper by rotating board members with a catchy title like Board Buzz. Or maybe someone else should be in charge of the name… I would encourage the board to reach out through electronic means on the school website, or establishing a blog or something that is interactive with a “FAQ” section, for example. It would require some extra effort on the part of the board to create a product everyone is comfortable with that is both useful and easily utilized by the public. These are small but concrete ways to help establish a multipronged communication plan that casts a wide net with various media that appeal to different groups of people.
That being said, one must recognize that any successful strategy to foster stronger communication between two groups hinges on the free exchange of ideas and the full disclosure of information in both directions. The board cannot make informed decisions in the absence of either of these components. In order to form a collaborative, unencumbered communication process, an environment of unconditional trust must be established. With trust as the foundation of a relationship, people feel safe to engage in the innovative thinking that is essential to solve the considerable issues that the district continues to face. The board has collaborated with staff, administration and the community to hold the district together through countless blows and financial challenges since 2010. I would work with the board to continue to build on that growing trust between the board and its many stakeholders. This should be an ongoing goal for the board because, while it takes a lot of energy to create a trusting environment, a startlingly small incident can destroy it. Once implicit mutual trust is established, the board, staff and community are positioned to move from “holding things together” to excellence in all aspects of education as defined in the district Vision Statement.