School board members craft mission statement

At a work “retreat” Wednesday afternoon, the Jefferson City Board of Education crafted a new mission statement and talked extensively about finding new ways to measure how well the district performs on a long list of goals laid out in a strategic plan approved earlier this fall. 

As they worked to define the Board of Education’s purpose, members discussed several key reasons for their existence, including ideas such as setting policy, establishing a fiscally responsible budget and employing a superintendent.

Although many entities within the Jefferson City Public Schools have crafted mission statements of their own, the board has not. This is their first effort.

Past Board President Joy Sweeney said she felt it was important to include ideas about student achievement early in their statement. They also wanted their statement to refer to the district’s over-arching mission statement, which talks about “Pride Through Excellence.” 

Although the board didn’t finalize the task, they agreed upon the key ideas, leaving the final word-smithing to Patty Polster, director of continuous improvement for the Missouri School Boards Association, who facilitated the discussion.

They also talked about setting goals for the board.

Among the ideas they discussed included forming a speaker’s bureau to address civic groups; creating a PowerPoint presentation that board members can use to communicate about, and advocate on behalf of, the public schools; and adhering to the principles of sound board governance. They also want to

measure the effectiveness of the district’s new strategic plan by developing a scorecard or progress report.

Board member Doug Whitehead said he felt it’s important for the board to “seek continual improvement, professional development, innovation and engagement.” 

Part of the conversation included what role board members should play and to what extent — if any — they should be involved in day-to-day school operations. 

Board President Tami Turner said she sees her role as a listener and talked about the importance of “trusting and supporting” the expertise of the superintendent.

“We can listen and share concerns,” she said, adding she didn’t feel it was within her responsibilities to find solutions to individuals’ problems with the district. “But I can share your problem with the chain of command.” 

Board member Alan Mudd rejoined: “Support is important. But we have another role to evaluate the job he (the superintendent) is doing so we can’t just be a blind supporter.”

Board member Dennis Nickelson said he sees his role as being both an advocate on behalf of the community and advocate on behalf of the school district. 

Thinking longer-term, Turner talked about the district’s Facilities Long Range Planning Committee. That group is trying to determine what the district’s facility needs are and what that will cost. 

“Our goal is to take what the (committee) comes up with and take it to the community. We’ve got to start the groundwork now. We’re asking them (residents) to support it and so we’ve got to be leaders,” she said.

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