Historical, unique, encouraging, refreshing, epic – not words I would normally use to describe a school board meeting in Enterprise. Historical could always be used because the minutes are recorded for history. However, the other adjectives are not normally applicable.
Most board meetings you can look at the agenda, note all items to be voted on, assume they all passed unanimously and you would be accurate almost all of the time. I don’t remember seeing a dissenting vote in the meetings I have attended since the board was reconfigured about two years ago. A City Divided describes that reconfiguration if you need to catch up.
Epic – Really!
The meeting held on June 11, 2015 at 12:00 noon, however, was definitely unique based on my experience of observing meetings over the past 2 years. It was also encouraging, refreshing and might even approach epic status. I did look that up before I decided to use it and I think it fits. Epic is defined as extending beyond the usual or ordinary. This meeting met that standard.
The meeting had proceeded as usual up until after the personnel list was read and approved. That is when Dr. Wright submitted her candidate for Director of Elementary Education, Katrina Bowling, to the board for approval. Prior to today approval would immediately follow, which is what I expected.
New Board Member Reporting for Duty
Oh, there was one more new item in this meeting. It was the first meeting for new board member Dr. Daniel Whitaker and his presence and participation was welcomed, noticed and appreciated by this observer.
Doctor to Doctor
After a motion and a second, discussion was asked for, before the vote in this instance. That is when Dr. Whitaker asked several questions regarding how this candidate was chosen. Here are those questions and Dr. Wright’s answers from my notes.
How many people applied for this position? 70
How many of those who applied met the qualifications for the position? 50
Did you interview anyone else? No. We are not required to interview, just to post the position. Her experience with Pre-K was important. Consistency with what we are doing here in Enterprise was the most important criteria.
Do any of the other candidates work in this role now or have experience in this role? If so, were their results or test scores better than ours? I don’t know. Since we have had so many changes over the past year, the superseding need was consistency.
If you are interested in changes over the past year you can take a look at An Eventful Year in Enterprise. Change has been a constant over the past year.
Process Not Personalities
These are common sense and practical questions for any open position, especially that of a Director of Elementary Education. None of this has anything to do with the qualifications of Ms. Bowling. She could very well be the most qualified and experienced candidate. I do think she is starting this new position at a disadvantage now because this has been brought to light.
How can we know we are getting the best candidate for any position if none of the other applicants are vetted and interviewed? I can answer that one. We can’t.
Is it unreasonable to expect when positions are open the best candidate for that position is the goal of the selection process? Isn’t that what makes any organization better and on the path to being the best it can be?
Should consistency be the overriding criteria?
A Rare No Vote
After these questions were asked and answered the vote was called for.
Dr. Whitaker voted No.
It was really the only logical vote he could make as the questions he asked illustrated the fact the selection process was short-circuited at best. Everyone else voted for the recommendation so it did pass 3-1.
So what does this mean?
What it means to me is we have a board member now who thinks for himself and when he has questions is not afraid to ask them AND when those questions are not answered to his satisfaction not afraid to cast a dissenting vote. That sets him apart from most of the other board members immediately.
Why did no one else ask these questions?
Do I expect to see this at every meeting?
No. Of course not. I do hope we see it when it is appropriate based on common sense and the oversight role I believe the board is charged with fulfilling.
This is only one meeting but it is a positive and encouraging sign for me and I suspect many others.
I do hope Dr. Whitaker continues to speak out, ask questions, and vote his convictions. I know he will be discouraged from doing so by the Alabama State Board of Education and others. The ceremonial-no discussion-unanimous vote meetings are what the State Board wants. I don’t agree with that philosophy and don’t believe it serves the public well. That promotes “What Works 100% of the Time“ and not transparency.
I will pray for Dr. Whitaker as I do for all board members that he will make all decisions in his official capacity as board member based on what is best for those he serves and nothing else. Based on today’s meeting I am encouraged he will do just that.
Welcome Dr. Whitaker and thanks for making today’s meeting unique, encouraging, refreshing and, yes, EPIC!
Until next time…
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