By Susan Salter | AASB Director of Leadership Development
State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tommy Bice this week sent local superintendents the forms for new and current school boards to sign affirming that they understand the principles of educational governance. Under the terms of Alabama’s new School Board Governance Improvement Act, Bice is requiring the affirmations be signed beginning with those taking office following November’s general election. Although the act does not specifically require current officeholders to do, Bice’s memo to superintendents notes that it would appropriate.
The signed affirmation forms are to be included in the minutes of the board, and Bice has tasked superintendents with ensuring board members comply. The affirmations, taken directly from the Governance Act, address an array of issues, from making decisions based solely on the needs of the students and system to supporting the school system.
- That each decision, action and vote I take or make as a member of the school board shall be based solely on the needs and interests of students or the system.
- That I will take or make no decision, action or vote to serve or promote my personal, political, or pecuniary interests.
- That each decision, action and vote I take or make shall be based on the educational interests of the school system as a whole.
- That I will consider the views of all members of the board and the superintendent before making a decision or taking an action on any measure or proposal before the board.
- That, except to the extent otherwise provided by law, I shall take formal action only upon the written recommendation of and in consultation with the superintendent, and that I may not individually or jointly attempt to direct or corrupt the operations of the school system in a manner inconsistent with the discharge of the statutory functions and responsibilities of the superintendent.
- That I shall actively promote public support for the school system and a sound statewide system of public education, and shall endorse ideas, initiatives and programs that are designed to improve the quality of public education for all students.
- That I shall attend scheduled meetings and actively participate in school system functions, activities and training programs that promote quality boardsmanship unless good cause is shown.
Also included in Bice’s directive was the state Board of Education’s newly approved model code of conduct for school board members. The Governance Act gives local school boards until April 1, 2013, to adopt their own code of conduct. The local document must, at a minimum, include all the provisions of the state’s model.
The state model divides expected behaviors into three categories: conduct of individuals, conduct of individuals at board meetings and conduct of the board as a whole. Together, categories include 30 directives regarding the appropriate behavior of board members. Items include:
- Making decisions on policy matters only after full consideration at public meetings;
- Communicating respectfully with and about the superintendent and fellow board members;
- Abstaining from voting on or trying to influence personnel actions involving family members, close associates or private interests;
- Treating staff with respect and courtesy;
- Working with other board members in a spirit of harmony in spite of differences of opinion;
- Abiding by decisions of the majority of the board; and
- Honoring the superintendent’s authority for the day-to-day operation of the system.
Not included in Bice memo were details about training requirements for school board members. The Governance Act specifies board members must attend orientation as well as ongoing training but leaves the details as to when and how much to the state superintendent. Bice’s memo indicates the state Department of Education has worked with AASB and others to develop the requirements. The SDE will provide details once they are finalized, he said.
Originally published in October 2012.