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Guest opinion: The role of school board members

August 14, 2014
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

It has been my pleasure to serve this community since 2000. As your School Board Member, I have observed the many changes which have occurred in public education and in our School District. I have seen Superintendents, School Boards and staff who have devoted their time and often their lives to the education of our children. I have also watched as many of them have retired or moved on to take on other challenges. And while change is constant, the role of a School Board member remains consistent - we are first and foremost policy makers. Florida State Statutes defines the role of School Board Members, which is to establish policy that supports the teaching and learning of our children. Second only to our constitutional duty is a required passion to be advocates for the children we serve. As the players in public education we continue creatively do more with less. We as School Board Members, more than ever, must be hands on advocates for the children that are impacted by State and Federal guidelines.

The policies we establish are what give direction to the Superintendent in leading the School District. When Dr. Graham became Superintendent in June of 2013, she had just a few days to design an organizational structure to begin the process of moving the District forward. But a designed team is not a dream team. Like a Fortune 500 leader, our Superintendent has taken the last year to assess and digest the District systems. She has identified needs and processes for improvement. Collaborating with a team of talented people she has worked with and supervised during this last year she created a new Organizational Chart with job descriptions. This new chart reflects a structure which she believes is in the best interest of the children we serve and the District as a whole.

This Organizational Chart was then brought forward by the Superintendent for the School Board to approve. The Superintendent has created her dream team, as well as putting in place any missing team members that would be necessary to fill the holes and forge the organization forward which puts us closer to becoming a World Class School District.

From my discussions with the Superintendent, she has assured me it is an organizational chart that reflects the input of all stakeholders - staff, parents, community partners and business leaders and it clearly reflects her leadership style but more importantly, it is in the best interest of serving and supporting our children.

With much discussion and revision, the School Board has approved this organization chart, with the new job descriptions and a tentative budget to support it. Now it is the role of the Board to move out of the way and allow the Superintendent to utilize the tools we have provided her to carry out the policies and move the District forward. It is her role, and her role alone, to put the right people in the right seats on the bus. And it's a big bus - our District has just under 12,000 employees and the Superintendent is inevitably accountable for each one.

Each Board Member has the opportunity to meet weekly with the Superintendent to review the progress of the District and discuss upcoming agendas, Board Member concerns or the concerns of our constituents. During my years as a Board member, these conversations are not always pleasant, but they are always necessary and have always provided opportunities for growth. During my years as a Board Member, I also know that this is the place to have these conversations and that little is gained by using a public venue to express dissatisfaction of the leadership decisions that are within the purview of the Superintendent.

I am proud of this District. I am proud of the fact that our children graduate from our schools, attend colleges and technical schools in our own back yard and then come back to us to work. The fact that we grow our own, support organizational structures that allow us to promote from within and bring up talented individuals that hold the history of this District in their hearts is a point of pride for all of us.

We are able to continue to do more with less because we empower our Superintendent to hire individuals in all sorts of positions that truly love this School District. They care about the community and love our children. That is a qualification you cannot write or capture in any job description. Now it is time for Dr. Graham to use the tools in her tool box and make this a World Class School District.

I appreciate the opportunity to serve you and look forward to the upcoming school year as it will be here before we know it. Enjoy the remainder of your summer and we look forward to another successful school year.

Jeanne Dozier is the School Board Member for District 2



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