September 2015 Board Watch Report CardLeave a Comment
Below is the twenty-fourth Board Watch report card based on volunteer assessments. The current report card reflects assessments from June through August of 2015. Overall, the School Board received a C+ average.
- Overall: The overall grade is a 3.25 (C+), which was the same grade as the previous Report Card. The grades were calculated from 23 surveys from 13 different volunteers.
- Focus and Mission: The score is a 2.86 (C), which decreased from a C+ on the previous Report Card. On average, volunteers reported that the Board only spent about half of its meeting time managing time effectively, focusing on ways to achieve the district’s goals, and prioritizing student outcomes.
- Transparency: The score is a 3.83 (B), the same grade as on the previous Report Card. On average, volunteers agreed that they felt welcome at the meeting and understood the information presented and the rationale behind the Board’s actions.
- Conduct: The score is a 4.24 (B+), the same grade as on the previous Report Card. This means that on average, volunteers reported that few Board members used sarcastic or disrespectful verbal or nonverbal communication. They reported that most of the Board handled differences of opinion respectfully.
- Role Clarity: The score is a 2.13 (D+), the same as on the previous Report. This score reflects that on average, volunteers reported that the Board spent less than half of its meeting time focused on how the district is making progress toward achieving its goals and using policy to create solutions to Board member concerns. Volunteers said the Board spent more than half of its meeting time focused on the details of agenda items (i.e., when items occur, who participates, etc.).
- Competency: The score is a 3.22 (C+), the same grade as on the previous Report Card. On average, volunteers reported that only about half of Board members were prepared for meetings and appeared to use research, district data, existing policies, and other facts to inform their opinions.
A Deeper Look at the Scores
Compared with the previous Report Card, volunteers observed a slight increase in comments referencing existing policies and seeking solutions/measuring progress. Volunteers also observed an increase in Board Member comments communicating a lack of respect for fellow Board Members and/or district staff. Specifically, volunteers suggested that when Board Members disagree with others, they should do so in a respectful way.
Recommendation – Focus on Policy Making; Time Management
The Board received its lowest grade in Role Clarity. This grade reflects volunteer observations that the Board spends relatively little time focused on (1) how the district is making progress toward achieving its goals and (2) using policy to create solutions to Board Member concerns. Although volunteers did observe the Board making comments about the needs of specific groups of students, they did not observe the Board addressing equity in a manner reflecting their role as policy makers. We encourage the Board to use its time together to discuss progress toward goals and policy solutions that will result in more equitable access to opportunities for all students in the district.
During this reporting period, volunteers also observed a lack of good time management during the meetings: starting late, returning to items previously discussed, and asking questions that could not be answered at the time. Additionally, volunteers commented that in some instances, they believed meeting protocols and regular rules of order were not being followed. These issues may be preventing the Board from focusing on its overall equity goals of maximum achievement for all students and equitable distribution of resources to address the needs of all students.
Links to Videos of Board Meetings Covered by this Report Card
Watch the Board meetings that our Board Watch volunteers attend to better understand the grade the Board received.
Since the launch of Board Watch in January 2009, A+ Schools has issued 24 report cards on Pittsburgh School Board governance practices based on observations of meetings by trained volunteers.
The Sepetember 2015 report card is the seventeenth report card to be issued using the new reporting form (Version 2.0) introduced by A+ Schools in 2011. Version 2.0 reflects higher expectations for the School Board’s governance and allows for more specific feedback and recommendations from Board Watch volunteers.
What You Can Do
- Volunteer for Board Watch
- Contact your School Board Member
- Testify at a Public Hearing
- Attend or Watch a School Board Meeting