School board has self-evaluation

New School Board
Standing: David Gaus (Business Manager) and board members James Kitchen, Duane Bodermann, John Carver (Superintendent), Scott Fortune and Doug Berg. Sitting: Board President Karlos McClure.

By Marcie Klomp

The Howard-Winneshiek Community School District School Board gave itself a self-evaluation at a special meeting on July 2.

The new superintendent, John Carver, had a full first day at the district, with regular duties and a board meeting.

First on the agenda was a closed session to discuss strategy with the board in a matter where litigation was imminent. Forty minutes later, the meeting was again opened.

Business Manager David Gaus was named as the person to receive funds from grants for Spring Ahead Learning Center in Lime Springs. School board member James Kitchen, also a member of the SALC board, told board members the SALC board wants to meet with the school board. He also wants to keep the residents in the outlying center informed as to what is happening in the school district.

The board then got down to the nitty gritty and started its self-evaluation. Board president Karlos McClure said, “I commend the board on taking this step to look at themselves.” He admitted he had not been part of a self-evaluation in the nearly four years he has been on the board. Duane Bodermann agreed it was his first time also, and he has been a board member going on 10 years. Board members Kitchen, Doug Berg and Scott Fortune are all in their first year.

The board was to evaluate itself on a number of issues including board meetings, team building, decision-making, planning, motivation, board/superintendent/staff relations, community/public relations, communications, policy, board development and legislative leadership.

Board member James Kitchen expressed his reason for wanting the evaluation. “The intent is for unity and to clear the air.”

Some of the items discussed are highlighted below:

• In regards to meetings, Board President Karlos McClure explained, “It is the superintendent and board president who set the agenda.” It was also stated that if three board members want something discussed then it will be put on the next board agenda.

• Board policies are on the website: http://www.howard-winn.k12.ia.us/ Carver put the policies in perspective. “We built a country on 11 pieces of paper. Your board policy is four inches thick.”

• Fortune asked if agenda items can be sent out earlier than Friday for the Monday meeting. Doug Berg agreed. “One packet was 200 pages,” which made it hard to get everything read.

Carver observed, “You guys have a very long agenda. I would suggest to have committees with two members and myself.”

Gaus added, “Sometimes the financials are holding [the agenda] up.”

Carver offered, “Getting that to you ahead of time will be the goal of David and me.” The tech-savvy superintendent said parts of the agenda could be discussed via Skype. Not-so-tech-savvy board member Bodermann joked, “ . . . or we can do it by phone.”

• Kitchen noted sometimes items are discussed, and then nothing is done with them. McClure recalled, “In New Hampton, if something was discussed, action was taken at the next meeting.

• One question on the evaluation asked if the majority of the board meeting was spent on education programs and outcomes. That got the board thinking. Bodermann stated, “The majority is not spent on education.” That is something the board wants to work on.

• Carver said of the public and staff when asking for ideas and opinions, “We need to go out. People won’t come to us.”

• Kitchen asked if an exit interview would be a good idea. McClure answered that in his experience, just talking with the staff member has worked.

• Some questions regarding the superintendent’s performance were hard to answer since Carver took over the helm that morning, but all were hoping things would go well.

Look for a board evaluation for the public to fill out on the website in the near future.

The next board meeting will be July 23 at the board room in the superintendent’s office.

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