Dysart board reflects on policy practices

An aerial view of the Dysart Unified School District offices in Surprise. The rural Paradise Acres development is to the west. (Courtesy naturalpowerandenergy.com)

By Jennifer Jimenez
Independent Newsmedia

One can’t make very far into a Dysart Unified School District Governing Board meeting before hearing someone speak the words “policy governance.”

It’s an important phrase for the board, since they made a commitment over six years ago to focus on policy governance, which includes self-evaluation.

During the Jan. 24 board meeting at the Dysart Education Center, 15802 N. Parkview Place, Thomas P. Jandris, Ph.D. presented the policy governance activity report, an event which occurs twice a year.

“Our district has benefited greatly from this board’s commitment to this process and keeps evolving,” Dysart Superintendent Dr. Gail Pletnick said.

Mr. Jandris began his report with congratulatory comments regarding the board’s dedication and commitment over the past 10 years to the strategic planning process and policy governance, saying he will continue to work as a consultant with the district, which he described as having a reputation as of one of the finestdistricts in America.

“Policy governance was adopted by the board through a resolution six years ago and was written into board policies,” Mr. Jandris said. “That establishes a mandate to continue to engage and comply with principles of policy governance. This is a testimony to the reality you are committed to reflection and self-evaluation to make improvements and that is a wonderful model of leadership to everyone.”

The district had shown a commitment to self-evaluation. The district has anonymous people who sit at board meetings and are trained in policy governing and observe the board meetings and report back to Mr. Jandris on how the board does business.

Additionally, the board conducts their own observations and completes self- evaluations at the end of each meeting.

“That’s important because it is rare when you get any group of senior people who are willing publicly to engage in reflection on their own performance. Think about that,” Mr. Jandris said. “That’s a level of maturityand commitment that most organizations don’t realize and that is a wonderful attribute your commitment to quality, continuous improvement and transparency.”

In group process items, the board scored very high on their ability to focus on board topics rather than staff topics.

Mr. Jandris said understanding what the board and executive roles are and not blurring those lines is an important aspect and it’s the board’s job to focus on the “what” and the superintendent and district’s job to focus on the “how”.

Board member Jennifer Tanner asked for clarification if simply filling out the self-evaluations after meetings is sufficient. Mr. Jandris explained self- evaluations are just one way, but having conversations in public is key.

“But that modeling of public transparency is useful to an organization because it demonstrates you are committed to self-improvement and transparency,” Mr. Jandris said. “But you have reached the epitome of policy governance when you can comfortably engage in conversation in front of the public.”

Mr. Jandris also explained the need for the board to quote or reference board policies, clarifications on board policies when they are not clearly understood, clarification of policy governance and ongoing public demonstration.

“Overall, I am thrilled at the progress this board has made,” Mr. Jandris said.

Board President Traci Sawyer-Sinkbeil said she is glad the board went in this direction and agreed it refl ects what the board knows and what the community expects of them.

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