Break the habits

School board learning about bad behavior

T-R PHOTO BY LANA BRADSTREAM Marshalltown School Board president Bea Niblock and Superintendent Theron Schutte discuss “How Not To Be a Terrible Board Member: Lessons for School Administrators and Board Members” during the Monday board meeting.

The Marshalltown School Board is learning how to do a better job thanks to “How Not To Be a Terrible Board Member: Lessons for School Administrators and Board Members.”

The book by Richard E. Mayer was addressed during the regular Monday board meeting. Examples of habits of bad board members were discussed and reviewed by individuals.

Some of the habits addressed and by whom were:

• Habit 13 — Come Unprepared to a Board Meeting, board member Mike Miller. He said the case addressed in the book was of a board member who was not taking the proper steps and reading material supplied before meetings.

“When a lack of preparation becomes a habit, in this case a terrible habit, it is time for the board member to step down,” he said.

Board members need to come prepared to meetings, Miller said.

Superintendent Theron Schutte said that could also apply to board members who miss too many meetings, especially when there is a digital option.

• Habit 14 — Do Too Much Homework, director of instruction Lisa Stevenson. In the example read by Stevenson, a member was concerned about the use of chemicals on buildings and grounds. The member got the concern on the agenda and then presented policies and a proposal without involving other members.

“In essence it left all of the board members feeling broad sided because they weren’t able to give their view and the person was taking on the role of everyone on the board,” Stevenson said. “The other board members felt out of the loop. That is not what you want to do. You want to be a team member.”

She said the board member could have had one-on-one meetings to share the information learned and then make the presentation in the public setting.

• Habit 15 – Represent Your Supporters, board member Jan McGinnis. However since McGinnis was absent, board president Bea Niblock reviewed the undesired habit. In the example, Niblock, said the board member is only representing a small segment of supporters rather than all constituents in the district.

“Those who voted for you, those who didn’t vote for you,” Niblock said. “You represent them all.”

She said the decisions made by members need to represent all of the children in the district, and not just the children in the elected’s neighborhood.

• Habit 18 – Argue with a Hostile Speaker, Niblock. She said there is a reason the board has a policy of no comments made by members and that the board cannot speak to issues raised during public comment because they are not listed as agenda items.

“We can only address items listed as agenda items,” Niblock said.

She said the board is there to listen to the public and they need to follow procedures. Miller said this habit was difficult for him during the years because sometimes a speaker will say something that should be studied or discussed further. He said he will wait until later in the meeting to ask for the issue the speaker addressed to be placed on a future agenda.

Schutte said that is an appropriate course of action.

This was the third time the board and administrators have discussed lessons from the book during school board meetings.

In other business:

• The Marshalltown School Board approved the new employee handbook written by director of human resources Nora Ryan. She told the board that a handbook was desperately needed.

• Approved the purchase of 1,380 Chromebooks for the 2020-21 school year prior to the scheduled price increase of the devices on March 9.

Contact Lana Bradstream at 641-753-6611 or lbradstream@timesrepublican.com.


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