Lafayette school governance called into question
One education advocacy group is asking for the public’s feedback on how the Lafayette Parish School Board conducts itself and its business during its board meetings.
The Lafayette Parish Public Education Stakeholders Council has created an online feedback form as part of the group’s Project Involve initiative to gauge public opinion about School Board governance, said Stephen Bartley, chairman of the coalition of business and community organizations.
The form asks meeting attendees or viewers to rate the board based on their own observations, like whether board members were prepared for the meeting or whether they used district data or other research when making statements or decisions.
The form is available on the group’s website, www.lapesc.com, in time for the School Board’s first regular board meeting Wednesday.
The council was involved in recent public education roundtable discussions sponsored by eight other partner organizations as a way to create a community vision for public education which will be unveiled during a public event at 5:30 p.m. May 28. Participants in the roundtables said they’d prefer less micro-management and more focus on student achievement.
The Project Involve survey is another way for the public to give its input on the school board’s performance, said Jan Swift, the group’s vice chairwoman.
“What we’re trying to do is get an unbiased look at what the community thinks,” she said. “We’ve gotten good feedback from the roundtable discussions that were done about a month and a half ago. This will be specific feedback on board governance.”
The information gathered will be presented to school board members and to the public prior to qualifying for the school board elections in August, Swift said. The group doesn’t make political endorsements, but does plan to hold a school board candidate forum before the fall election.
“We hope it will raise the level of awareness of elected officials and administrators about what the community believes,” she said. “It’s an observation form on how the school board is governing within its own perimeters. If you look at the questions, it’s about: how is the school board doing.”
The group designed the form to make it more accessible to participants.
“Folks can do it on their personal computers or mobile devices while they’re viewing the school board meeting in person at the school board office or at home,” said Valerye Boles, a member of the group’s public relations committee. “We’re hopeful that this will increase participation.”
Other questions on the form are related to whether the person filling out the survey understood the information presented to the board and the rationale behind the board’s actions. The form also asks for input on what the person thinks the board could have done differently in the meeting that would have shown better governance.
In the past year, some school board members and the superintendent have been at odds on personnel decisions. In the current legislative session, some pieces of legislation took aim at board relations in Lafayette Parish, including one bill that would have created a committee to explore potential changes in the current school board governance structure. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, pulled the bill to allow more time to study the issue. Landry’s legislation that would have prohibited board members from interfering with a superintendent’s personnel decisions failed in a House vote earlier this month. Landry has said the legislation was partly inspired by the Lafayette board.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.