Lucky School Board, Lucky Douglas County Parents.
With vivid memories of the crowds at my first Douglas County Board of Education meeting buzzing in my head, I set out very early for my second meeting being held at Cimarron Middle School. I didn’t want to be late as I so wanted to witness the first item on the agenda, the Board interviewing the candidates for the vacant Board position.
Apart from a couple of Board members sitting at the table near the stage, I was the second person to arrive.
I chose to sit right at the very front. I wanted to see and hear everything.
The interviewing process (which I already knew from a conversation with one of the applicants) was relatively straightforward. The applicants had submitted their letter of application, and were consequently invited to the open interview session. An open interview? The thought of that quite took my breath away. I know, from experience, that being interviewed is stressful. I couldn’t imagine for the life of me what it would be like to be interviewed in a large hall, with every word, every intake of breath being magnified and broadcast live.
As the minutes ticked towards 5:00 p.m., the official starting time, I turned and counted 18 people now seated behind me. At 5:00 p.m. exactly, the Board Chairperson shuffled his papers and repositioned the microphone in front of him. Oh, good, I thought, he’s going to welcome everyone, explain what was going to happen, and say a few words about the qualities and strengths the Board was looking for in its dream candidate – you know, transparency.
He didn’t say a word. He continued to shuffle his papers.
My patience was finally rewarded. Eventually, at 5.20, the Board Chairperson tapped his microphone and called the meeting to order. He told the audience that there were 11 candidates for the Board vacancy, and that we would observe 10 of them being interviewed. There were now, I noticed, 23 adults sitting in the large hall.
The first candidate was brought into the hall by a Board representative, invited to sit at the table, and given 3 minutes to speak. She opened her papers, thanked the Board for giving her the opportunity to be interviewed, then, confidently, spoke for every second of the 3 minutes allotted to her. She was, she said, a mother of school-aged children, and so wanted to represent the views of parents on the School Board. When she finished, she smiled broadly and asked if there were any questions.
Much to my surprise, the Board members did not each have a set question to ask the candidate. In fact, they looked more uncomfortable than the candidate. Needing to break the ice, the Chairperson leaned towards his microphone and asked a question. When the candidate responded (with wonderful confidence and conviction), another question came from someone not sitting at the table but through the ‘phone. The question, which was, incidentally, appropriately repeated to each candidate, asked for their views on the controversial teacher pay–for-performance evaluation process.
The Chairperson asked another question, then, very courteously, thanked the candidate for attending the interview.
The next candidate was ushered in and the process repeated.
More and more of the chairs in the hall were now being occupied.
Candidate Two was a former teacher and principal. The third had a background as a D.A.C. member, the fourth a school parent volunteer, the fifth a S.A.C member, dad and technology specialist. The sixth candidate said she had volunteered often for the Board, the seventh was a very experienced teacher, the eighth a businessman, the ninth, a teacher, and, finally, the tenth, a pilot.
By the time candidate 6 sat down and read from her papers, three of the Board members actually posed questions. One, in particular, asked a couple which were sharp and appropriate.
Overall, I was so impressed with each candidate’s use of the three-minute opener and their positive, knowledgeable responses to the few questions from the Board.
I was in awe of the candidates’ exuberance, their passion and their commitment to public service.
As I sat, watched and listened to every word, I kept thinking how lucky we - the public and the Board of Education - are that such people are eager to devote their time, their energy, their intellectual prowess, to supporting the Douglas County school system, especially the teachers.
Later, looking back at the evening, I would have appreciated an opening statement from the Board that informed the audience what the Board was looking for.
I was disappointed (and not impressed) with the Board’s interviewing techniques. I expected - at the very least - a formal set of questions for each candidate so that we, the audience, could compare the candidates.
Now I’m wondering: what happens next?
How and when will the Board make its decision?
Footnote 1 District Accountability Committee
Footnote 2 School Accountability Committee
Footnote 2 School Accountability Committee