Imagine what could happen if parents and community members were actively involved in the school board process? According to Katherine Villanueva, it’s made a big difference.
Villanueva is a mother of three and one of Norwalk’s first Board Watch volunteers. I spoke to her last week during a celebration recognizing Board Watch’s first year:
What is Board Watch?
‘Board Watch’ is a program that was launched last year by the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), in conjunction with the Fairfield County Community Foundation. The program is based on a model that was successful in Pittsburgh, PA, called A+ Schools.
How it works is a group of community volunteers are trained in Board of Education best practices and procedures. Those volunteers then attend a minimum of two meetings each. In total the current cohort attended ten meetings.
Volunteers then grade Board of Education members based on things like competency, conduct, transparency and focus on the mission. After the year is over ConnCAN released reports detailing volunteer recommendations and comments — here are links to the first report: Part 1 & Part 2
Could Other Districts Benefit?
The job of a school board is to set policy and represent the will of the community, yet so often, Connecticut’s board of education fall into chaos.
You don’t have to look too far for an example of this. For example, this past week, according to the New Haven Independent, the New Haven Board of Education spent two hours bickering over how to move forward with the superintendent search process. Observers called the meeting an “embarrassment.”
For more on that here’s a link to the New Haven Independent’s coverage
What if those observers could grade the school board? Would that help with the rancor?
The good news is that, at least in New Haven, we won’t have to ponder those questions for too long.
According to ConnCAN’s team, Board Watch is already looking into starting a volunteer group in New Haven and possibly other cities.