Ensure Accountability and Transparency at All Levels
Accountability and transparency can be an elusive concept. However, my experience as a school board member has led me to believe that accountability happens when we are clear about our goals and objectives and how we are doing in meeting the goals and objectives. Transparency happens by asking the right questions and communicating the information back out to the community. A board member is the community representative that provides oversight that governs with respect, head, and heart.
The right culture of the Board and executive staff is also needed to promote accountability and transparency. School board members, in large part, can only make good decisions based on the information that the staff provides. This includes bringing us thoughts and concerns from our associations. There has to be an environment in which board members can ask questions freely and can request reports, data, background, etc. to understand the agenda items that need to be approved.
A culture of collaboration and the ability to have democratic discussions about the issues is critical. The Board must adopt budgets and policies, set direction, provide oversight, and maintain a 30,000-foot view of the District. I will continue to work hard tirelessly to maintain this culture.
Over the years, I have had to advocate hard for information and changes in procedures and practices. Currently, there is a transparent process to call for a request for proposal (RFP) for professional services. Professional services include attorneys, audit firms, demographers, consultants, etc. Requesting proposals regularly ensures competitive fees and does not promote complacency. I felt it was essential to build trust and transparency, and I advocated for an audit committee made up of two school board members and a community member. This committee has been in place for the last four years.
Several years ago, while serving on the Tri-Valley Regional Occupation Program (ROP) Board as the representative for PUSD, I experienced a very dire situation. There were three us new to the Board, a Board Member from each of the Tri-Valley school districts, including Sunol at the time. The four board members, together, were a collaborative and robust governance team. A few months into our role, we discovered that the ROP was in jeopardy. Because we worked well together, we were able to move swiftly and led the ROP through a substantial reorganization. Today ROP is a robust and award-winning program that nearly 1,000 PUSD students have the benefit of attending.