I am not HistoryMike, so don't expect perfect English.
I spent 2.5 hrs typing these notes and I don't want to go back and proofread. If you have any questions please ask. I will be happy to answer.
Today's board retreat -the scoop:
There was the chair incident in the beginning.
There seemed to be some progress, although there is no doubt the board has issues and a way to go.
Then there was after the meeting
The board retreat was long and the facilitator from Cleveland did a fairly good job at keeping things moving along and I believe she was mostly fair to everyone. There seemed to be one person talking a lot and the facilitator could have done more to play the fair role. The whole meeting was mostly about the facilitation process.
The board came up with some draft goals and a draft list of items that they want to accomplish in the next 6-12 months; mission control: there was some progress. You can download the audio at http://greatopenswamp.coms.com .
Sometimes the audio is clear sometimes not. It does get better after the first 15 minutes.
There really was not a good place to set the recorder.
There was a lot said during the meeting. I did not write everything down, but see below for what stood out
Here were the play-by-play of what happened:
When I first entered the room, I had to smile at what I saw. The chairs for the media and citizens were on the opposite side (see photo) of the room that where the board members were.
Twila Paige and I were the only ones there so we decided that we were going to move the chairs up once the meeting started.
The Blade reporter came in after us and was also puzzled by the arrangement. The reporter left and called someone.
When he came back in I said this was odd, and he said he was going to stand up there if he had.
I told him we were planning on moving the chairs up once the meeting started.
I have been at 3 other retreats (2 where I sat at arms length from board members and one that was at the board office).
The meeting started, I did not hear what was being said but then Darlene stood up and walked over and grabbed two chairs.
I assumed it was she had a problem with the arrangement. Twila and I walked up and sat down. I brought a chair for the Blade reporter that was standing next to the beverage area.
Facilitator started out saying the community has high expectations. Larry was very angry with Darlene moving the seats up.
The group talked about ground rules. Larry then said that Darlene had no business moving furniture in my house for friends (Don't believe me? Listen to retreat 1a recording at the 8min 29sec). Larry went on for a bit before the facilitator stepped in and asked what everyone else thought. Robert Torres said that we need to focus on our work.
Larry said that the new board members did not serve on a board before and said they did not dedicate the time they should to the board. Larry said the board needs to talk more. He said that the time you serve on the board, should not serve personal agenda.
The facilitator said that she wanted them to talk about issues and communication. They talked about how to communicate together and also talked about how to respond to citizen requests. The treasurer talked about the problems they have.
Foley, who was also at the Board workshop, said sometimes he is put into a bad situation when he is in the middle of the board issues and it causes trouble for them. Facilitator says super and district has information that needs to be shared. Barnett says it is important for the right information go out.
Foley says sometimes the media will contact them with an issue he has not heard about and also contact the board members for comment. He can't talk on it. Foley said they have many routes of communication. Facilitator said there are two routes of communication, from super to board and between the board. The facilitator asked what is the process for requesting info. Barnett said she did not think there was a process. Barnett said her committee was there to do the grunt work.
Larry said that it is not fair that some individuals on the board make many requests for information and demand it now. He said that one request had (file1b 10min 30sec). 15lbs of paper for the response. He said he gets all of it and reads it and does not know what he is looking for. \r\n\r\nDeborah Barnett said that she did not want to hear about what happened in the past and wondered how they can move forward. There was an argument regarding this (file1b 11min 30sec) between Deborah, Larry and Robert.
The facilitator said that maybe they need to be more reasonable about demands. She said that she had a conversation with a board member. She also said there are some questions that do need answered. Sykes said he reads everything. He said other board members should sit down and ask questions of the appropriate people, especially finances. He said many people ask him for information, but he does not ask. He said it is not right that others ask for information and the board is granting it. Foley expressed concern about the information requests.
Romano asked what are the rules and guidelines. Sykes said that they can have a discussion and he said how do they prohibit people asking for information. Facilitator suggested they take it through the structure or have discussion about it.
Foley said that all questions should go through him or Dan Romano. Facilitator said the staff reports to the super. She suggested they don't deal with the undercurrent stuff or they won't get anything done. What is a win win for everyone?
Barnett said all board struggle with what is appropriate level of control.
Darlene asked who is the board accountable to? The facilitator said they are accountable to each other and to the school system. Darlene asked what about the public? The facilitator said the public elects you.
Foley said that they need to do better with communication and hoped there would not be a lone ranger on the board. Steel said he wanted to focus on major requests
Torres asked about the 40%. He asked if he knew 40% of the population had an issue, could he address it. The facilitator said that there should not be a lone ranger.
Larry said that the mission is that they ensure each child gets a good education. Robert said there is an issue of trust. He said a board member told him, she does not trust him. He said he never has said any of that to anyone on the board. The facilitator said that we won't be able to establish trust today. Larry said that he is always willing to provide information and that they all need to work together. Sykes said we have everyone looking at us, as he held up an article from a Cleveland newspaper (file1b 41:19). Torres said that is irrelevant, we need to work to get to a place where we are so boring no one will take notice. Deborah said she is trying to work toward this. Darlene said she had trouble scheduling a meeting with Larry. Larry went back to the first meeting when he asked Darlene if she wanted to be president of the board. Larry said he solicited votes for her. Darlene said that was not true. Deborah said why are we going there? Focus on the task. Larry angrily said that I want to finish over Deborah. Larry continued. Said that they met another time and Darlene said that she felt she was set up. Facilitator said we have two perceptions (file1b 43:00).
The facilitator went back to the requests. Barnett said she wanted to funnel request through committee. Darlene asked about citizen comments she said that it would be good if the admin says that the matter was referred to them. Larry said that they can't get involved in personal issues and sometimes you can't meet with parents. He said there are two sides to the story.
Torres said sometimes you the board needs to play the role of listener to the community. Barnett seemed to agree.
They took a break. Right before the break Larry demanded that Deborah or Darlene move the chairs back. They came back after a five -10 minutes. File 2.
They next talked about e-mail communications. The facilitator handed out a list of mistakes school board members make (e.g. making fragmented actions, challenge board after decision, acting like lone ranger, no surprises, voting along party lines, hidden agendas, violating executive session, and putting the board ahead of family and business) The facilitator held up two headlines, opinions from the Blade editorial and two district stories. She asked what was the difference. Robert said one difference was the editorial statement from a newspaper that wants to help shape vision. They talked about the difference.
Next the facilitator asked to write their own headlines. Larry said his would be the district was the best and had 60k students. Steel said suburb schools closing because everyone is going to tps. Barnett said she wanted the district to be effective. I did not hear what Darlene said. Torres said 5 for children and that there were cost savings. Foley said he was vice fire chief. Sykes said seriously you have the nickname of Fireman, you put out fires all the time. Next the facilitator summarized some of the goals they came up with and wrote them on a white board. Student achievement, financial accountability, best/success, community support. The facilitator said that the difference between the headlines were separation of board and district. Reality is they should not be a headache.
Next they talked about the conferences. Barnett said it is good because they want to take the feelings and ideas and bring them back. Torres said sometimes he needs to make a decision between conference and job. Barnett said it is a good way to develop a network of people who do similar things. She said sometimes it is good to hear about how the district is doing from others. She also said it is good because she can call someone if everyone else is busy. Larry says he goes to get new ideas like painting doors different colors. Larry said other districts revere what Toledo is doing and you will find that when you go to these other conferences.
Facilitator stepped in and said that we need to talk about mutual interests not positions. She said that she wanted them to come up with some things that they will do next to help make the board work together (although it sounded like goals). Some of the items were, hiring a superintendent and leadership team, address low performing schools, budget process.
Darlene said the budget process could affect the goals. Romano said that he like to budget to vision not vision to budget. Barnet wanted to accept the goals. The facilitator said she wanted to type them up for everyone. When the facilitator asked what she wanted everyone to do. Larry said respond to antagonistic questions to the board. Steel said abide by ground rules and the pledge, Darlene said vision.
They talked about the next meeting. The facilitator wondered if this was a good time. They suggested Feb or March.
They decided to meet again 2/24. Larry said one more thing-he wanted to request Ms. Fisher-then Deborah interrupted Larry and asked about the date. Larry finished what he said quietly after the date discussion.
Steel reminded the board to bring their notebooks. He said the search firm will not have extra books tomorrow.
Adjourned around 12.
The following is what occurred after the meeting. I don't have exact conversation, but it is how it happened. I did not have my tape player playing.
The last part is what happened after the meeting. Darlene and Robert left quickly after the meeting. Larry demanded Darlene return the chairs. I told Darlene I would return them. The board members, super and business manager began taking down the room. 13abc reporter Zach began interviewing Deborah Barnett. I went over to listen to her. When she was done she went over to the Blade reporter. I walked over, but then Deborah Barnett told the reporter to come over to her. She said Chris, I don't want you to listen. I told Deborah, what you are saying to the media is public. Deborah said Chris you are not the media. I was shocked at this and went over to tell Twila what just occurred. So then Twila and I were waiting for the Blade reporter to finish. Larry came over and said you two need to leave. I said we will leave when everyone else does. Larry did not like this and went back and said damn something. Larry then went back to putting away tables. He started walking back toward us and said we need to leave so he can lock up. Twila and I said we will leave as everyone else does. Larry then mumbled "mother f-----g something (I could not hear)" as he walked by. I said to Larry, you should not swear. Larry turned around and said pointing at me, you better watch what you say. I said you should not be swearing and that you don't want another court case. Deborah Barnett came over and said Larry and got him to stop, Larry put away the rest of the tables and banged them in the back. Twila and I left while Larry, Deborah, the Blade Reporter and Dan Romano remained. That is when I noticed Larry parking in the handicap spot. Deborah came out and I said to Deborah, if you say it to the media, you are saying it to the public you should not be afraid of me hearing. Deborah said read it in the newspaper then. Twila talked with Deborah and the facilitator then we all left.