TOWNSEND — School committees set policies and have fiduciary responsibilities. The superintendent is the chief executive officer, responsible for carrying out the policies and running the district.
The North Middlesex Regional School District School Committee met with Glenn Koocher Oct. 6 for a workshop on its role and responsibilities in running the district.
“A lot of discussion we have with school committee members is whose responsibility is it,” he said. As the executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, he meets with school committees and runs training for them.
His goal is to “help focus school committees on specific strategies to improve student achievement,” he said.
The school committee hires the superintendent. It looks at data and makes a budget based on what needs are identified by that data.
The superintendent hires the rest of the personnel, supervises the day-to-day running of the district and calls off school.
The policies set by the committee influence teacher evaluation and effectiveness by guiding the superintendent.
School committees get to determine if something is a policy. Policies range from setting holidays to provide guidance to the superintendent when preparing the budget and hiring personnel.
Whether something is determined by policy is not always cut and dry. Something extremely controversial, such as including creationism in the curriculum, could be set by policy.
“The answer is the law gives us no guidance for figuring this out,” Koocher said. “There’s just a lot of stuff you have to figure out locally.”
Working together is important to improving student achievement. “When you don’t support the superintendent, that filters out to the community very quickly,” Koocher said. People are looking for dissent.
As elected officials, committee members must be available for their constituents. However, members must be careful to avoid using their influence improperly, which could result in ethics violations.
The school committee is an important conduit for relaying information to the community. Meaningful presentations given to the committee can be viewed on television.
Sometimes, committee members need to go into the community and talk to other boards, said Anne Adams, a Pepperell member.
One specific issue the school committee faces is getting new members. “We don’t have a community fighting to become school committee members,” said Chairman Susan Robbins of Townsend. One new member did not run for his seat, but was elected by write-in.
People want to be advocates and envision themselves accomplishing something when they join a board, Koocher said.
The committee needs to deal with issues that come to the table. They choose what will be on the agenda.
“I try and be very mindful of people’s time,” Robbins said.
The chair, who is a servant of the committee but not its leader, keeps the meetings going, Koocher said, and sometimes must deal with an epidemic of logorrhea, people who talk too much and too long.
“They want to know they are going to make a difference,” Robbins said.
“Everything is about student achievement,” said Koocher.
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