AdvancED team here: School Board answers questionsThe Jamestown Public School Board discussed some of its perceived flaws during a special meeting Monday as part of an accreditation process. A five-team member of AdvanvcED spent the day Monday meeting with staff, before meeting with the School Board to interview the board about the direction the district is headed.
By: By Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
The Jamestown Public School Board discussed some of its perceived flaws during a special meeting Monday as part of an accreditation process.
A five-team member of AdvancED spent the day Monday meeting with staff, before meeting with the School Board to interview the board about the direction the district is headed.
AdvancED is a regional accreditation agency that helps districts work on continuous improvement.
“It sets us to a higher standard than state accreditation which is what schools want,” said Bob Toso, JPS superintendent, before the meeting he did not attend.
Roy Musland, School Board president, and board member Greg Allen were also absent from the meeting.
Cindy Gardener, a program coordinator for a career and technical school in Gainesville, Fla., was one of the five volunteers with AdvancED.
Gardener asked why the School Board was perceived in a stakeholder assessment to not function as a cohesive unit, convey a negative image and have a tendency to micromanage.
“We need to re-educate ourselves on what the board does and doesn’t do,” said Gail Martin, board member. “We have administration, we need to give them the ability to administer and we as a board set the policy and direction of the school, and at times there is micromanaging, and at times it drives me crazy.”
Board member Diane Hanson, who has served for less than two years, said she saw a division within the board of those who favor Superintendent Bob Toso’s positions and those who do not.
Toso is retiring in June after 12 years as an administrator in the district.
“I personally think in the year and a half I have been here it has been slowly mending itself,” Hanson said of the divide among board members. “I think we’re all starting to think very hard about what our role is and when it is appropriate to question and when it is not.”
Board member Shelly Jystad suggested The Jamestown Sun plays a part in what the public perceives.
“The press is here and how it gets reported, what gets reported, what quotes are used, that all feeds into the perception of what the public think is happening,” Jystad said. “… I’m not suggesting it’s inaccurate — I’m just saying how it is reported has a big impact on how people perceive things.”
Board members Hanson and Terry Andersen said they disagree with the perception. Andersen said he wanted to see examples of when the board has micromanaged an issue.
Jystad said public perception aside, the School Board still does function.
“We have not been in a stalemate, we have still functioned, we have moved forward,” she said.
The five-person AdvancED team also asked the School Board about its policy toward technology, addressing strides to improve reading scores, how it knows if it’s doing well and communication in the district.
Throughout the 45-minute meeting different board members said the district can move forward when new superintendent Rob Lech takes over this summer.
AdvancED team member Josh Johnson, a middle school principal in Devils Lake, said the Jamestown district is moving down the right path.
“There’s some good ideas in place and as you identified with new administration coming down the road as well there’s going to be some chancres for continued improvement and that’s bringing the district together and sharing in that goal and vision and the direction in which the district is headed,” he said.
The AdvancED team will present a final district-wide report in a presentation at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the Thompson Community Room.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org