It was the educational equivalent of speed dating.
Each of the six school councils in Logan County Schools had its own table in the high school library. Every 12 minutes, a timer would sound and the school board member and administrator at each table would pop up and switch to a different table.
While Logan County Schools Superintendent Kevin Hub uses the term “roundtable,” the mid-October activity – like speed dating – promoted partnerships.
“We basically find out things from a council that maybe we haven’t known before,” board Chairman Kenneth Robertson said. “They’re free to ask us any questions whatsoever.”
Logan County school board Chairman Kenneth Robertson (right side, center)
asks a question of Adairville Elementary’s school council members.
“It’s easier to talk to someone when you can put a face to a name and you know something about them so you have a foundation to build communication on,” added board member Ralph Cropper.
In the space of an hour and a half, these were just a few of the things school board members learned when they talked to school council members:
• Olmstead Elementary needs more technology and training to help teachers better assess students and identify which ones need remediation.
• Reading scores are shooting up quickly at Auburn Elementary with a new reading program.
• The district’s website needs improvement, and a user-friendly district app for mobile devices would be handy.
• Lewisburg Elementary would like to have more staff to reduce the student-teacher-ratio.
A frequent nonmaterial request from the councils to board members: Visit our school. As Lewisburg Elementary teacher Earlene Appling said, “We would like you to come and visit our school and see what we’re doing that’s great.”
Each board member had chosen a central question for councils based on his interest, and conversation flowed naturally from that. A supplementary list of questions was used to fill any gaps.
Examples: What is your strongest program? What kind of information do you need from the board that you’re not getting? What are your training needs?
The roundtables go beyond data and promote two-way communication, said Logan County High School Principal Caycee Spears. “I think you get a lot more out of it,” he said. “From a principal’s position, it’s good to have that collaboration between the board members and the site-based, because we’re all here for the same purpose, and that’s to help students reach their goals.”
“Hopefully, they hear some of our needs and wants and wishes,” Auburn Elementary council parent member Jalee Page said. “And we can understand the limitations of the district and what they’re facing, and it’s just a time that we can get on the same page.”
The format gives board members a better understanding of schools outside their own electoral divisions, board member Philip Baker said. “This gives us a fresh perspective of what each school needs, what each school is made of, what each school represents,” he explained.
Board member Tim Hall and Vice Chairman John Dawson both described the roundtables as giving them insight into the schools. Dawson said it’s especially helpful now that his own children have graduated.
It’s not all talk and no action, either. Hub noted that at last year’s session, Adairville Elementary’s council made the case for a full-time music teacher and guidance counselor instead of just part-time positions. The board provided funds in the school’s allocation this year, enabling them to do so.
Hub said the roundtable format was used in Madison County Schools, where he worked before coming to Logan County. This was the second year for Logan County to hold the exercise, which serves as the annual council reporting to the board.
“I’ve always known that the stand-and-deliver methods that site-based councils used, a 45-slide PowerPoint presentation where not everybody had a chance to be invested in the conversation, was not the best way to build partnerships between the school councils and the board,” Hub said.
For this second year, the time spent at each council table was lengthened a bit, and while some administrators participated last year, this time around a central office administrator was paired up with every board member to talk to the councils. The administrators serve to help with technical questions, Hub said.
The superintendent functioned as a sixth member in the rotation, but Hub said his role was to provide councils with “the big picture,” filling them in on district-wide projects and emphasizing the impact they can have on their school.
“That’s what we want site-based councils to do – we want them to have more buy-in, more understanding, more responsibility for what happens in their schools,” he said.
The board team and councils won’t have to wait another year to talk with each other. There will be a second gathering in the spring that will focus on board goals, Hub said.