Are you at the right meeting?

Recently, Citizen Stewart penned 26 rules for re-framing the narrative around school choice. Of those, one stood out more than the others. It is one that I often find myself pondering when I am invited to meetings, conferences, and events.

#19. Any meeting of education professionals that doesn’t touch on student outcomes is the wrong meeting.

Some of the meetings of education professionals I have attended have had all the symptoms of a meeting about student outcomes, but in reality, they’ve been more about what is best and easiest for adults. That is wrong. If, as an education professional, you cannot look at your agenda and pinpoint how those items will result in measurable student outcomes, you need to rethink your purpose for being in the room. The same goes for school and district governance teams.

In my second term as a school board member, I am proud of how productive my school board meetings are. Our meetings start at 5 pm with closed session followed by open session at 6 pm, and we are usually adjourned by 7 pm. However, my school board has been criticized by those unaware of how effective meetings or governance teams that are based on student outcomes look.

My board and I spend time, hours, often on weekends, setting the vision and priorities each fiscal and school year. From this, we set our agendas for the year. What’s more, we ensure that from the top down, everything we say and do is rooted in what’s best for kids. So, what looks like a rubber-stamped 5-0 vote on our consent agenda is actually the result of setting agendas with one question in mind:

How is this good for the students, families or communities we serve?

For us, if an item is not suitable for the young people, their families and the community we serve, it does not make it onto the agenda. Further, we know that there is a direct correlation between effective governance teams and student success.  

We need to be very clear about one thing: education institutions (school districts) are not in the business of employing adults. We employ adults for the purpose of educating children, supporting families and building community; this has to be the priority for schools and districts even with hiring practices as well as setting salaries. Often, this is lost in the shuffle of running the business of education. But, we should often be reminded why we became educators in the first place: to educate young people.

If what is best for the youth we serve is not the driving motivation for your reform efforts or the daily focus of your work, you need to reconsider your mission, vision and daily practice. In our efforts to reform school, communities and young people, we have to get this right now. The courtroom or emergency room are too late.