The school board recently adopted a Coherence Governing Model, which, according to the district community blog, is “a framework to enable boards to lead the organization through policy.” The board decided to adopt this model in order to monitor the results of their governing more effectively and improve their interactions with the community.
Although the Coherence Governance Model includes many different concepts, the developments that we, the editors, believe to be most notable are “linkages” and the speaking limits put on community members in board meetings.
The new model uses these linkages as a way for board members and the superintendent to communicate work being done by the district to the community and in return receive feedback from residents. In simple terms, linkages are groups of people that want to meet with the superintendent and a board member twice a year. There are currently 18 linkages that have scheduled meetings, including Booster clubs and PTOs.
We believe that linkages are a way to repair the distrust that certain community groups have recently developed toward the board. At these meetings, the purpose is to clarify resolutions and receive feedback, not to debate or govern. When the board has to answer questions and address conflict at public meetings, discussion gets messy and the board cannot do its job.
While the concept of linkages theoretically opens up communication between the board and the community, the new public participation policies appear to be limiting that communication. As editors, we know that although there are only two sides to an argument, it is possible to have many different reasons or justifications to choosing a side. By limiting the number of people that can speak for a side of an issue to three, the board risks not hearing arguments that could resonate with them, possibly leading to a different vote. We understand the policy was put in place to streamline discussion and avoid redundancies, but we believe the number of people allowed to speak for each side should be at least five. The idea that three people could represent an entire community’s perspective on an issue is simply unrealistic.
Overall, we support the board in attempting to reorganize the structure of meetings and improving communication with community, but even more improvements could be made. Ideally, the community and the board need to converse based on mutual trust, courtesy and respect.