By Durward Narramore
We have heard a lot lately about ethics training and ethical behavior. There are many people who believe they are interchangeable or if you are trained in ethics, then you will act ethically.
Because we as school board members are responsible for children, I believe we have been placed in a higher public trust than many other types of elected officials. And we are to get the best “bang” for our dollar when spending on educating the children in Kentucky’s public schools. I believe that the vast majority of board members take this to heart and perform their duties on a high level.
Ethics training is soon to be mandated for school board members. A regulation approved by the state Board of Education in August and soon to be acted upon by a legislative committee will require one hour of ethics training annually. This training will enable school board members, both new and veteran, to recognize what behavior is expected of us in our duties, and also to avoid pitfalls. Sometimes the problem is that we understand the concept, but don’t realize where the line in the sand is drawn. Sometimes what is ethical and what is not ethical comes down to a court opinion or a ruling by the attorney general. The spending of public money will always be scrutinized. Sometimes the public does not understand, or does not want to understand, that many expenses incurred are driven by laws or legal opinions. The cost of wages, benefits, building repair and maintenance, training and travel, in most instances, have been vetted and approved on many levels, including by those who oversee these expenses at the state level.
But does training in ethics automatically equate with ethical behavior? In my opinion, it does not.
Knowing what is ethical does not mean that a person will behave ethically. I believe that acting ethically is an internal, personal choice and part of your upbringing. It is also not always about money. How do you treat your fellow board members, superintendents and staff members in your school district? This gives great insight on how ethical you will be. If you treat those around you with respect and decorum then the odds are that you also will treat other peoples’ money with respect.
When you attend this year’s KSBA Fall Regional Meetings you’ll be given some insights into the ethics training that your staff have developed to meet the new mandates from the commissioner and state school board. This class will be rolled out at our 2014 Annual Conference in Louisville, Jan.31- Feb. 2, and then will become a regular part of our conferences, which will be necessary since state regulation requires this training for board members every year.
What is considered doing the right thing can be taught in ethics class. Doing the right thing and acting ethically is a matter of personal choice. One you learn and one you are.
— Narramore also serves as chairman of the Jenkins Independent Board of Education