BOARD INSIGHT: Board of Education Service: So Much More Than a Meeting

Attendance and participation at bi-weekly Board of Education meetings is (pardon the cliché) just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Board service. In fact, the meeting itself often requires less time to conduct (usually 1-2 hours) than each member’s pre-meeting preparation.

Board members receive their meeting packets midday Friday in advance of the following Monday (sometimes Tuesday) meeting. Depending on the agenda – which includes lengthy reports from our Central Office team (i.e., Curriculum, Student Services, Special Education, Treasurer, Human Resources, and Superintendent), policy review, and discussion items –  our meeting packets range from 75-220 pages. As we review over the weekend, we have the opportunity to gather additional detail so that we thoroughly understand the issue(s) at hand. Please know that Board members strictly observe Open Meetings Law constraints with respect to sharing insights and opinions outside of the Boardroom’s public forum; we respect the law in all instances, and our inquiries are limited to clarification of complex details and information gathering.

The bi-weekly regular Board of Education meeting represents only a small number of the meetings we attend, each vital to the District’s smooth operation. For example, three members comprise the District’s Audit Oversight Committee, which meets quarterly. One member sits on the Teacher Center Policy Board. Two members contribute to the District’s Inclusivity Advisory Committee. And our Board President and Vice President join Superintendent Pero on the School/Town/Village Leadership Committee, at which the sharing of common challenges and resources is often a discussion topic.

Pittsford is well represented in the Monroe County School Boards Association, comprised of 18 suburban school districts and the Rochester City School District. Pittsford Board of Education President Amy Thomas is currently the Association’s Vice President. Kim McCluski co-chairs the MCSBA Community Outreach Committee, and Valerie Baum serves in a similar capacity on the Information Exchange Committee. Each of the remaining Board members serves on the Information Exchange, Labor Relations and Legislative committees. The MCSBA is a primary avenue through which PCSD’s advocacy is communicated.   

Advocacy for our District’s children and community also takes place during face-to-face meetings with our state legislators. In addition to meetings in their local offices when the legislature is not in session, a PCSD Board member usually travels to Albany twice annually (December, March) to push for fair and equitable treatment in the Governor’s budget. Our efforts are paying dividends. Thanks in part to Pittsford’s involvement, MCSBA’s advocacy efforts are highly regarded across the state, especially in Albany.

The Board works diligently to live the values we promote for the broader District. We pursue continuous improvement of ourselves and our District, collaboration with our many partners and stakeholders, and strategic vision through Board workshops, retreats, and a variety of training seminars that address finance, diversity and inclusion, and board governance issues.

Fundamental to every student’s educational experience is academics. Throughout the year, Board members can be seen in all school buildings, as well as in a variety of classes and labs. Board and Central Office Team members tour each school building and visit with staff every month. During the tours, we inspect behind-the-scenes infrastructure areas like boiler rooms, HVAC, and high-tech computer areas. We visit classrooms to experience the incredible work taking place every day with our students. And we get to visit the amazing educators across the District who creatively inspire our children to think in new ways about doing their best work, being their best selves, and making a difference in the lives of others.

Board members eagerly engage with students in government classes, answering their many questions about Board service, our decision-making process, and (not surprisingly) snow days! We learn computer programming from elementary students during the annual “Hour of Code.” We watch in awe as students create complex structures using a 3D printer. And we experience the collaborative and competitive spirit of our students in DECA, Odyssey of the Mind, Unified Basketball, and Robotics contests (among so many more!).

Theatrical productions, art shows, choral and musical concerts, and other athletic events remain tremendous draws for Board of Education and community members alike. Some of us even get the chance to see our own children compete alongside their teammates – a special treat! We’re simultaneously humbled and awed by our students’ immense talent and teamwork.

Vital to our District’s continued success is the devotion demonstrated by our teachers and staff. September’s thrilling staff kick-off to the school year is a dynamic, can’t-miss event; as is the annual Tenure Reception, which gives Board members and tenure recipients the opportunity to confirm one’s trust in the other. And, as each school year draws to a close, Board members are on hand to bid heartfelt “thanks and farewell” to our District’s retirees at the springtime PDTA Reception.

Without question, the highlight and culminating event of every school year are our Mendon and Sutherland Commencement ceremonies. Like the parents, families, and friends who fill the RIT Fieldhouse, we Board of Education members join in celebrating our graduates’ many achievements and the bright futures ahead. Though we see the fruits of our “labor” throughout the school year in so many ways, there’s no reward quite like the front-row seat we enjoy as each graduate walks the stage to receive their hard-earned diploma.

With so much activity across the District, it’s sometimes difficult to engage with everyone. But we try. Every opportunity crafts another chapter in our story. We’re eager actors here –  not simply because we should – but because we love it. Contrary to a widely held belief, volunteer Board service is not a thankless task. Far from it. So much more than a meeting, it is a passion we share together and with you as we continue to focus on what’s best for our kids.