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Grand Forks School Board rates its performance

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Several Grand Forks School Board members gave the board mostly positive scores this year in a self-review discussed Monday.

Members approved their annual self-assessment the night before the election, in which seven members are seeking to keep their seats. They gave the board good marks for supporting student achievement, management of the school system and following state and School Board policies, but more mixed results in areas such as communication.

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Five of nine board members completed the survey and rated the board as a whole on several measures including transparency, professional development and whether it’s adopted a plan for curriculum review and development.

The assessment results are fairly typical compared to previous years, said Superintendent Larry Nybladh. But the board rating itself, which it has done for years, is not typical practice, he said.

“I think this is extraordinary,” he said.

Differences

Board members felt hiring qualified staff, engaging the community in decision-making and supporting student achievement were among many top priorities this year.

On a scale of one to five, members were asked to rate importance of a category and then provide a separate rating on how the board’s current practice matched up.

In about half the categories, members felt the board’s efforts mostly aligned with the priority level. They gave themselves higher scores for making sure the public had access to board policy, adopting a strategic plan and regularly reviewing board policy, among other areas.

In some instances, the results were more mixed.

Although the board felt it important to be held accountable for its behavior — such as keeping information confidential in executive session — one member gave the board’s actions a five, while others gave it a three or two.

Every board member felt that engaging with the community by seeking input and building support networks was a high-level priority, but the majority rated the board’s actions with a three.

Public perception of board and administration communication changed somewhat after the board attempted a tax increase last year that surprised many. In the comments section of this category, two members, who were not identified in the assessment, said there’s been significant progress.

“We put a communications plan in place. We have hired an individual to focus on it alone. We have made tremendous progress,” wrote one. “I do not grade us a 3 because we are failing, but because the public we deal with doesn’t care how we make a watch, only what time it is.”

To be successful, the member continued, the public needs to know how the board makes superior students and question how they do it.

At the meeting, some said the assessment was useful, but also pointed out varying interpretations and personal prioritization limited its effectiveness. More member commentary and a discussion to narrow the definitions of the categories would help in the future, they said.

Click here to view the board’s self-assessment

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Jennifer Johnson
Jennifer Johnson covers K-12 education for the Grand Forks Herald.  
(701) 787-6736
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