With departments throughout the Carroll County school system waiting for direction, the county school board last night appeared more divided than ever over its role in setting districtwide goals.
The Board of Education typically approves a set of broad goals -- ranging from academic improvement to school safety -- during the summer to give departments time to plan ways to meet the objectives. This year has been quite different.
The issue was tabled at meetings in July and last month, at the request of member Susan W. Krebs. Krebs said she has been insisting since spring that the board discuss its recommendations for the list.
Board members began last night's session methodically taking turns suggesting additions to a list drafted by the administration this year. The meeting quickly digressed into a free-for-all over the board's role.
Repeated complaints from Krebs, such as that the board has not spent "one moment" discussing goals, drew stern responses from her colleagues on the board, particularly C. Scott Stone, who criticized Krebs after she arrived with her list of suggestions.
"You came in here with more information, and heaven only knows what you expect us to do with it," said Stone, satisfied with the list presented at the board meeting in July. "Don't challenge me publicly, Susan. Show some decorum."
In a 15-minute exchange between the two members, Stone said not a day goes by when he is not discussing his vision for the school system with staff and administrators. Krebs countered that those discussions should be public.
The board seemed to agree that it did not have time to overhaul the school system's set of goals before its meeting Wednesday, when it is expected to approve a final list.
Members disagreed over how specific goals should be. Saying that the goals should be measurable, Krebs suggested that all pupils in Carroll County be reading at grade level by the second grade. Having measurable goals, Krebs said, would put Carroll more in line with the state Board of Education
Other members disagreed, cautioning that too-finite goals make the system more vulnerable to attack. "The more specific you get, the more criticism you get," said member Joseph D. Mish Jr.
Board President Gary Bauer said setting standards does not take into account yearly fluctuations in student achievement, which cannot be controlled by teachers and administrators.
Said Bauer: "It can look like failure when it is not failure. It can look bad. People could say, 'See, they're not being successful at what they are doing.' "
Board member Ann M. Ballard did not attend last night's meeting.
The board had before it a list of four goals delivered by the administration in July. It includes promoting student achievement, maintaining a safe and orderly environment, and ensuring continuous improvement.
Krebs presented a list of 15 goals for the board that included conducting "a timely, thorough, annual evaluation" of the superintendent and establishing "clear goals for the superintendent and our school district after considering feedback from our school community."
Bauer suggested that unnecessary programs that take staff from more important functions be cut. That goal was dropped this year when the list was whittled from nine to four. Bauer was satisfied when he realized that goal was included as part of another recommendation.
The goals debate began at a July meeting when a visibly frustrated Krebs balked at rubber-stamping the administration's list without any discussion. Yesterday, she said: "This board just takes all of its functions and delegates them somewhere else."
Bauer agreed the group played a minimal role this year in goal-setting.
"Susan is correct in that the board was not sitting at the table and participating," he said. "We need to be part of the process."