Along with new board member Karen Cruickshank, I've been busy attending many orientation and training sessions. So far we've attended seven sessions on topics such as the budget, strategic planning, facilities, policy, finance, the PSSAs, NCLB, the Sunshine Act, the role and duties of school boards, and more. I've been so impressed by how helpful the T/E School District administrators and other school board members are. They've answered a ton of questions and helped me get up-to-speed quickly.
In addition to orientation, new board members are encouraged to tour all the schools. I've really enjoyed seeing the schools and meeting teachers and administrators.
Every school board member was appointed as the official liaison for one school in the district. I've been assigned to New Eagle Elementary. In January, I attended a program sponsored by the New Eagle PTO and the Green Committee. Stacy Kinneally of the Green Flag School program spoke about ways to make your school and home more "green." The environment is an important issue to me, and I was happy to see that I was already doing many of the green tips suggested. After the meeting, I joined www.greendimes.com based on Stacy's advice. I hadn't heard about this program before, but GreenDimes will get your name off of junk mail lists for a $10 fee- saving approximately 1.5 trees a year. I look forward to attending more events at New Eagle.
In December, I received my committee assignments. There are five standing committees: Education, Facilities, Policy, Finance and Public Information. I have been assigned to the Finance and Public Information committees, and I will also serve as the School Board representative to the Diversity, Technology, and Middle School Advisory committees. As you might imagine, I've been extremely busy attending school board meetings-- sometimes even five in one week. You can read the meeting minutes at http://www.tesd.k12.pa.us/schoolbd/updates/jan08.pdf, but here are a few highlights from my own perspective:
- I attended the January InterSchool Council (ISC) meeting. At this meeting, Rich Gusick shared information about PA's proposed Graduation Competency Assessments (GCAs) with representatives from the parent teacher organizations. The parents were understandably concerned about how the GCAs could negatively impact students in our school district. With their support, I created a website with information about the GCAs and how to take action. The ISC and the members of the TE School Board signed the statement that appears on the "About Us" page of the website, which is an indication that there is strong opposition to the GCAs in our community. I encourage you to read the information about the GCAs and to contact your local paper and legislators.
- As part of the Public Information Committee, I also filmed a segment for TETV's Board Talk program about the GCAs. Our next board talk will be about the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. I am looking into ways to post the Board Talk programs online since this would enable even more parents and community members to watch these valuable programs.
- In addition to working on the budget, the Finance Committee is evaluating how to provide after-school support for students participating in middle school sports and activities. We heard from several working mothers who requested either activity buses or after-school supervision as this would enable their children to participate in extracurricular activities. I also know from my experience volunteering with FLITE and with TE Cares that after-school supervision or activity buses are necessary if we want activities to be accessible to children from all socio-economic levels. We will continue to evaluate this issue in future months and are looking for a cost-effective solution.
- The Diversity Committee met to discuss the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. Since I have volunteered with anti-bullying programs for years, this is an issue near and dear to my heart. T/E is in the second year of its elementary school bullying prevention program and in the first year of its middle school bullying prevention program. The Olweus program is just one element of T/E's comprehensive school climate campaign. As part of the program, the teaching and guidance staff have been trained on how to recognize bullying and how to intervene properly. There is on-the-spot intervention as well as separate follow-up meetings with both the bully and the victim. A major element of the program is empowering bystanders to intervene. By discussing the roll of bystanders, reading popular children's books with a bullying theme and explaining the difference between tattling and telling a teacher or adult in order to help another student, the program encourages students to stand up for bullying victims and to get adult help when necessary. T/E kicked off the program with a survey of students, which will enable them to compare survey results yearly to determine the effectiveness of the program.
- The Chester County Intermediate Unit and four other Chester County School Districts are making the switch to bio-diesel fuel-- as are Colonial, Radnor, Haverford, and Lower Merion. The PA Department of Environmental Protection is awarding grants to enable school districts to make the switch to cleaner-burning fuel. The grants are a win-win for the community since they enable school districts to go green AND save taxpayer money. T/E does not own its own buses, but I have asked that we consider the bio-diesel fuel grants as we evaluate RFP responses from transportation providers.
I will continue to look into ways to use technology to help inform the public about our school district. One important way I'll keep you informed is by updating this blog regularly. You also can contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.