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Board Watch Q&A

Q: What is Board Watch?

A: Board Watch is a grassroots effort involving volunteers who are trained to observe Pittsburgh Public School Board meetings. These volunteers are informed citizens serving as independent observers and evaluators of the School Board’s governance.


Q: Why is Board Watch necessary?

A: A+ Schools believes that in order to achieve a strong and equitable public school system, we must have effective leaders who have a clear understanding of the needs of the students and are fully accountable, fiscally responsible and strategically focused on moving the district forward. A district governed by a focused School Board that functions with purpose, transparency, respect, responsibility and competency will enable all students to achieve their maximum potential.


Q: How does Board Watch tie into the goals and mission of A+ Schools?

A: We feel strongly that an informed and engaged public leads to improved student outcomes. Board Watch serves as the eyes and ears of the public to ensure effective school board
governance — including openness, communication, accountability and civility — with a priority focus on equity and student achievement.


Q: Who are these observers and how are they recruited?

A: Board Watch observers are trained, independent and neutral citizens who have volunteered to attend School Board meetings and evaluate the governance they observe. A+ Schools welcomes all concerned citizens who are residents of the City of Pittsburgh and share our commitment to student achievement and our expectations for effective School Board governance. We work with partner organizations to recruit volunteers who reflect the diversity of the city’s population — including racial, socioeconomic, gender and geographic demographics.


Q: What kind of preparation is involved?

A: All Board Watch volunteers must participate in a training session led by A+ Schools’ staff and partners. Observers receive an overview of the state policies that created school boards, learn about the structure and function of our local board and gain knowledge of how to recognize good governance in action.


Q: What do the Board Watch observers look for?

A: The volunteers are trained to be attentive observers and keen evaluators looking for indicators of effective Board governance.

These indicators include:


Q: What meetings do Board Watch observers attend?

A: Board Watch observers are present at monthly Agenda Review and Legislative Meetings.


Q: How many observers are “on duty” for each meeting?

A: We have at least three Board Watch observers present at each meeting. This allows for more balanced observation and reporting. Grades are then based on an average.


Q: Do Board Watch members make comments or ask questions during School Board meetings?

A: No. Board Watch observers are instructed to be courteous and attentive, and not make comments on behalf of A+ Schools or themselves. If they need clarification, they are instructed to ask questions after the meeting has ended.


Q: How is the School Board graded?

A: Each Board Watch observer completes a report for each meeting they attend. The report includes notes on the behaviors they observed and a scaled survey for them to indicate the level to which they agree that they observed good governance practices. The responses to the survey are calculated for each meeting and translated into a grade for each of the five indicators.


Q: When do the Board Watch observers submit their reports?

A: Observers are required to complete their reports and submit them to A+ Schools within 24 hours of the meeting.


Q: How are these reports and grades released to the public?

A: A+ Schools releases School Board report cards on a regular basis throughout the school year. Report cards are posted on our Web site at www.aplussschools.org and include a grade for each of the five indicators and an overall grade for that reporting period. A+ also makes specific recommendations when needed.


Q: How long does A+ Schools plan to continue the Board Watch program?

A: We will continue the Board Watch program as long as it continues to serve as an effective and valuable tool.


Q: What are the bottom line results A+ Schools hopes to achieve through Board Watch?

A: We want a strong and equitable public school system resulting from an open, transparent, accountable and effective School Board and an informed and engaged community with higher expectations for School Board governance.

 

 

 

Last Updated on March, 2014