What does KSBA do? We provide answers to your questions – lots of ’em

By Brad Hughes
KSBA Director of Member Support/Communications Services

The setting was an afternoon “speed-dating” session earlier this fall for members of the Governor’s Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership, a Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence initiative. Each year, the institute brings in representatives of education groups so that its class members can learn about the organizations and how each might help with the parent engagement projects they are planning.

I generally focus on helping the parents with ideas on how to communicate about their projects. But in the 10- to 15-minute Q&A, it’s not unusual to get the following:

“What does the Kentucky School Boards Association do?”

Normally, I go into the regular spiel about our array of services. But in an attempt to avoid saying the same thing over and over, this time I responded, without really thinking, “Well, we answer a lot of questions, every day, every week, all year round.”

That exchange got me thinking that it might be interesting column fodder to give our readers a clearer sense of just what association staff are doing. The variety of questions my colleagues and I address on a daily basis is probably an eye-opener for folks, especially those who aren’t among our more frequent callers and emailers in Kentucky’s 173 school systems.

Out of the ordinary is the norm
On his first day on the job, new KSBA Executive Director Mike Armstrong took a call from a citizen who had no children in school but wanted to discuss why he still had to pay school taxes. That’s just one example offered by co-workers in a quickie poll on “What have you been asked about recently?” Some others:

  • Is it a good idea to host an informational meeting for the school board candidates?
  • Where can I find the rules for school districts on retaining public records?
  • What are the rules for schools when it comes to addressing student food allergies, especially peanuts?
  • Does KSBA have resources about how to invest and manage a small scholarship endowment?
  • How do we fill a vacancy on our board of education now that a member has resigned?
  • What are the board’s authority and options under the student discipline code?
  • Could you tell me about the Green Schools program and other ways we can improve energy efficiency?
  • Where do we go to access Web streaming of another district’s news conference?
  • Can you give me a layman’s explanation for delivery targets in the state accountability tests?
  • Does a board in a superintendent search have to hire from the screening committee’s recommendations?
  • How do we change our policies on how students were designated for special education services?
  • What are the laws and attorney general’s opinions on video teleconferencing of board meetings?
  • Can you help me find a document that didn’t come from KSBA; maybe you know where it came from?
  • Where can our board members get the new mandatory training in ethics?
  • Are there protocols about board meetings and how to deal with less-than-perfect behaviors?
  • Why do districts have to do facilities planning processes and how do LPC panels work?
  • How many signatures do I have to have to become a candidate for school board?

The Last Word
A staff survey about a year ago determined that there are more than 500 years’ experience – in a host of fields, not just education – among the professionals who make up the KSBA work team.

You may or may not find that impressive, but the questions above – edited big-time for space – strongly assert that this assemblage of knowledge, history and know-how is an added value to Kentucky’s public education system.

When I provide the orientation to new hires, there are two points that are always made. We don’t always give people the answers they want, but they know we will give them the very best answers we know to give. The second is a simple practice: If we know the answer, we say so. If we don’t, we don’t try to make something up. And if we know someone else who would be a better source for the information being sought, we’ll make the referral.

Based on my 21 years here, that’s the solid practice in the house. And it’s a message worth getting out.

Written for the KSBA Kentucky School Advocate, November 2014. Published with permission.
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