By Bill Scott
KSBA Executive Director
The KSBA Board of Directors devoted time at its recent annual retreat to discuss several new training modules for local boards and superintendents. Recent examinations of school district finances by the state auditor’s office have documented the need for more board training in several areas, particularly oversight.
In his remarks at our recent annual conference and at a subsequent news conference with state Auditor Adam Edelen, Education Commissioner Terry Holliday reiterated the urgency of this problem by announcing that he would ask the Kentucky Board of Education to make ethics and finances required components of future school board training. At the annual conference, the association offered several workshops, including one by the state auditor and his staff, designed to clarify and respond to the findings.
The bottom line is that, since the board has control and management of all school funds and public school property (KRS 160.290), it is ultimately responsible for any issues related to the funds. For this reason, KSBA’s board and staff are taking these findings seriously, along with the commissioner’s further call for boards to use a more comprehensive system for evaluating superintendents.
Anyone familiar with KSBA’s board team development efforts under director Kerri Schelling should see these discussions as the latest reflection of our ongoing commitment to help members meet their academic and fiduciary responsibilities. Although we expect more guidance from KDE on the new training, each priority – ethics, finance and superintendent evaluation – has been assigned to one of the KSBA Board’s standing committees to ensure that it receives attention and support going forward.
Ethics: Although KSBA’s Academy of Studies currently does not include a component on ethics for local board members, our Board of Directors adopted a School Board Member Code of Ethical Conduct for members in the early 1990s and updated it in 2009. These standards cover everything from being prepared for board meetings to avoiding conflicts of interest. The code can be found on our website. Staff are currently collecting ethics training components from other state school boards associations for a new ethics course in our Academy of Studies.
School Finance: KSBA has always had multiple trainings focusing on this topic and further strengthened and expanded this curriculum by contracting in 2008 with the Kentucky Association of School Business Officials. The result was the establishment of four different school finance modules, which are described in the Academy of Studies Course Catalog on the Board Team Development page of our website. Although members must take all of these courses to complete our Academy of Studies, it is not mandatory for new members. More commonly, however, experienced board members may go for years without taking any refresher courses on this essential topic. This would change if a new state regulation requires board members to take at least one finance course in each term of their service.
Superintendent Evaluations: In 2008, KSBA staff collected and reviewed superintendent evaluation instruments from state school boards associations across the nation in an attempt to provide our members with the best tool and process possible. Since that time many boards have adopted and received training on this instrument.
At our annual conference, Dr. Holliday indicated that by December of this year all boards must submit a superintendent evaluation plan that includes the same student achievement indicators that the U.S. Department of Education required of KDE and districts as part of our waiver from the requirements of the No Child Left Behind law. These new superintendent evaluation goals include increasing the district’s graduation rate, closing achievement gaps, and improving college and career readiness rates.
The new superintendent evaluations must also focus on fiscal management goals such as:
• Establishing a balanced budget for all programs and activities.
• Utilizing collaborative, transparent processes to ensure district resources are allocated in accordance with district needs.
• Leveraging district resources to attain the highest levels of student learning.
• Effectively communicating the district’s budget to the local board and other constituents.
At this point, we don’t know all the details about the new superintendent evaluation goals. Nor do we know exactly what the required ethics and finance trainings will look like. However, I can assure you that KSBA’s board and staff are eager to work with the Department of Education and the Kentucky Board of Education to translate these important topics into the best possible training for the board teams of the Commonwealth.