2007 NSBA Presidents Retreat Notes:

As summer winds down and districts begin to head back into session we all need to remember what are mission or visions are when it comes to the children in Delaware. The DSBA mission is clearly stated on the website, “… to encourage and foster unity of thought and action of school boards and to further the educational interests in the state”. On the national level the NSBA reminds all board members that a “vision statement shall be used as the guiding force for all long-range, strategic planning and policy decisions, and a framework for day-to-day operations in the district”. Stated in layman’s terms a member of either a local or state board must see that what ever actions or decisions they make together answers the question, “Does this follow the Vision we set, and does it help the needs of our children in the State?”
In August I had the opportunity to represent the DSBA for the first time as its President at the NSBA Presidential Retreat, and I came away from it understanding better how important vision is. Before I talk about the insights I gained let me thank you for this chance to represent the membership of the association for the 2007/2008 school year. Having served one 5 year term, and starting my second I have dealt with many of the same issues each of you on your local boards have faced that are not unique to Delaware. From financial shortfalls to schools in Academic Review, Delaware districts face many challenges to following their missions/visions each day, and 2014 is fast approaching with its requirements for 100% competency. New programs, like Vision 2015, and reauthorization of NCLB are directed at helping with both of the previous issues to improve academics and close the achievements gaps. However, having read through both plans and listening to the folks in Alaska, I personally felt that two key parts need to be stressed even more then they are, Community Engagement and Board Leadership.
The key address at the retreat was presented by the Association of Alaska School Boards on their Initiative for Community Engagement. Alaska ICE, an acronym, is a collaboration of many groups and individuals all joined together “to make the safety, health and education of young Alaskans their top priority”. The basic premise of the initiative is that by using a community engagement model all required parties can help build healthy communities. The research-based model is a map to go from Awareness of a need; to Considerations of what needs to be done; to Preparations for solving a need; and finally taking actions to meet the needs. The map then goes on to say that reflection will lend itself to sustainability thereby taking us full circle. Alaska school boards had the same awareness’s that all of us did, and that is a need to prepare our youth to excel in life of the 21st century. Using data compiled by the Search Institute of Minnesota, Alaska ICE became “Aware” of 40 assets that youth in their state needed to make their vision successful, and these “Considerations” of need gave them a focus. The Assets are split between External and Internal, and they are subdivided further to Support, Empowerment, Boundaries and expectations, Constructive use of time, Commitment to learning, Positive values, Social skills, and finally Positive identity. To read more about these Assets and how school boards can tap into them visit the Alaska ICE website at http://www.alaskaice.org . A note on how this is doing in Alaska would be the improvements in assessments:

• 06-07 326 schools made AYP, 172 did not
• 72% of schools not making AYP missed by 1 or 2 areas (out of 31)
• Schools making AYP
o 03-04: 42%
o 04-05: 59%
o 05-06: 62%
o 06-07: 66%

I came back from Alaska rejuvenated in my personal passions of why I serve on a board, and I hope that maybe I can stir others about community engagement. Delaware youths are looking to us to give them not only the best education, but also help them learn what it is to be a citizen of the 21st century. Today, many focus only on defending against unfunded mandates, and where are the tax dollars going while we lose sight of the visions and missions we as board members are sworn into office to be both advocates for and leaders towards!

About Gary M Wolfe

The Author spent 10 years as a member of the Milford Delaware Board Of Education, and is currently seeking the 18th Senatorial seat in the Delaware Legislature.
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