M’ville School Board discusses goals, vision

TULALIP —The Marysville School District Board of Directors engaged in a frank conversation about their goals and roles during a retreat at the Tulalip Resort Hotel March 14.

In the midst of a discussion about standards by which the public could evaluate the Board’s performance, and by which the Board could evaluate itself, Board President Michael Kundu asked his fellow Board members in attendance to consider what they see as their larger purpose.

In Kundu’s opinion, part of the larger purpose of the Board should be to “evaluate the values of the community,” and to take the initiative in promoting those values within the school district. As examples, he suggested that, depending upon whether the community wants to see its children obtain employment in vocational trades, computer programming, environmental science or the aerospace industry, the school district should be bringing programs and curricula on board to support those aims. At the same time, he acknowledged the need to provide an education that would meet state standards and allow students to pursue any profession they chose. He praised the Board for being “admin strong,” but also expressed concerns with what he perceived as a lack of “collective vision,” and encouraged them to focus more on “bringing in new ideas.”

Board members Cindy Erickson and Sherri Crenshaw differed somewhat with Kundu’s views, in particular his characterization of the Board as “dysfunctional” for not meeting what he sees as its purpose. Erickson believes that the Board should concern itself with “taking the pulse of the community,” and she cited her own work on behalf of special education in the district, while Crenshaw warned against the potential consequences of failing to develop preexisting ideas. When Kundu called the Smaller Learning Communities at Marysville-Pilchuck High School one of the district’s most recent “new ideas,” Crenshaw advocated “letting that run its course for a little while,” a recommendation which Erickson echoed.

Kundu went on to call for greater transparency and communication with the community and suggested that a “team of rivals” model, in which differing points of view are incorporated into the process, is necessary to avoid the Board developing an insular perspective. He, Erickson and Crenshaw all agreed that many members of the community harbor misconceptions about the Board members’ roles, sometimes believing them to be full-time employees of the district who devise curricula themselves. They also mutually settled on a strategy of each Board member selecting two to three community members from outside the school district who could help evaluate the Board’s performance. In addition, Kundu encouraged the Board to engage in outreach that could further foster “a two-way understanding” between themselves and the community.

Erickson expressed reservations about accepting input unconditionally from “single-issue” members of the public, whose judgment might be clouded by their agendas. Kundu responded to this possibility by recommending that more people be involved in the process, to balance out any special interests. Kundu also agreed with Crenshaw’s call to make sure that persons of color are included.

“I expect us to move forward, bring new ideas in and flesh them out,” Kundu said.

“I feel we should get a pulse of what the community is thinking and feeling,” Erickson said.

“It’s a good idea to get community input,” Crenshaw said. “I just don’t want us to be bombarded with too many ideas.”

Board members Don Hatch Jr. and Darci Becker were not present at the Board retreat.

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