Superintendent of Schools – This past week I was part of our first Board of Trustees meeting for the 2016/17 school year. Although it was my first board meeting with RVS, it was not unlike, and actually quite similar, to board meetings in my past life as a Supt in BC. Many people, even in our system, have never attended a public board meeting. Normally the meetings are sparsely attended by the public unless there is an issue that has engaged the public. It was great to have four reporters from our local media outlets present last week as they help get our messages out and ensure the public is aware of what is going on with their schools.
School trustees play an important role in our public education system; they are the elected officials chosen by their community to govern over public education. Over the last two years, our trustees have worked hard to clarify their role and what is asked of the Superintendent. Often people use the term Board and trustee interchangeably, but they actually are different. The Board is a legal corporate entity providing overall direction and leadership to the Division. The Board takes action as a collective and is accountable to the Minister of Education. For a decision to be implemented, it must garner majority support of the trustees present at a meeting. Individual trustees, unless delegated by the corporate Board, only has the authority and status of any other citizen.
Our Board’s role is multi-fold. It:
- has overall accountability for student learning;
- provides community assurance that it represents the interests of the entire Division;
- acts in accordance to provincial government requirements;
- establishes the four year plan;
- is fiscally accountable through overseeing the budget and various capital plans, and collective agreements/terms of employment;
- hires and delegates various responsibilities to a Superintendent;
- establishes policy;
- advocates for public education and the Division;
- and engages in Board development to ensure effectiveness.
As Superintendent I am not a member of the Board of Trustees, but am there to provide support to the group in its decision-making. Countless administrative and operational issues are delegated to me, which are then delegated to various staff members on our leadership team.
Trustees must prepare and engage in order to participate in Board business. Some may think that the job of a trustee is just to show up for a meeting every two weeks, but I can assure you that is not the case. They are required to read background materials, gather information, and consult with their constituents. Through a variety of strategies (including Board meetings), they engage parents, staff, students and the community-at-large. Trustees advocate for local issues and concerns, but must have an overall Division perspective as well. They refer administrative issues to me. Trustees often are called upon to listen to concerns and then direct the person to the appropriate person to help resolve the issue. They are required to act in the best interest of the Division. Even if a trustee personally vote on an issue in the minority, if the majority support it then he/she is required to support the motion as if it was unanimous. Being a trustee also involves committee work, regional work, professional learning, engaging with school councils, staying abreast with local / regional / provincial / national and international trends in education. Trustees even have their own code of conduct.
Why does this matter? Trustees through the Board of Trustees are tasked with overall leadership and ensuring that public education reflects the values, interests, and desires of our communities.