Thursday, October 23, 2014

Mutual Respect

There are two main groups of people that make up the management hierarchy of a school district in Illinois.  The board of education and the administration (superintendent and his or her team of principals and other administrators).  Under Illinois law (see here for certain relevant provisions of the Illinois School Code), the school board is charged with the overall administration of the district but really has four main functions: approving the budget and the tax levy (with recommendations and input from the superintendent), approving the textbooks and courses of study (again with recommendations and input from the superintendent), hiring and evaluating the superintendent, and directing the overall management of the district through policy and strategic plans.  The superintendent (along with the rest of the administration) is charged with the day-to-day management of the district in accordance with board policy and directives.

In order for this system to work, each group needs to respect the legitimate obligations and authority of the other group.  Obviously, I am a board member and so come at this with the perspective of a board member.  I respect the administrators' authority to do their job as far as the day-to-day management of the district, but in return I expect that the administrators respect the board of education's authority to do its job (especially regarding what I believe are the four main functions of a board of education).  In return, I also expect the administrators to respect each individual board member's right as an elected official to advocate for his or her positions and to either agree or disagree with other board members or administrators.

In addition, each board member should respect the right of other board members, as fellow elected officials, to agree or disagree with their fellow board members and/or administrators without being subjected to harassing, intimidating or otherwise disrespectful treatment.  Whether board members agree with one another's position or not, board members should always stand up for their fellow board member's right to express an opinion without being subjected to disrespect by either a fellow board member or an administrator.  In short, in order for a board member to earn their right to advocate for their position, they should defend the right of other board members to advocate for their position regardless of whether they ultimately agree or disagree with one another.  (The oath that all board members take actually addresses this when it states, in part: "I shall encourage and respect the free expression of opinion by my fellow board members and others who seek a hearing before the board, while respecting the privacy of students and employees.")

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