School board sets meetings with employees

January 13, 1997


Staff Writer

School employee association leaders said they'll urge their members to participate in the Washington County Board of Education's planned "Speak Out" meetings, aimed at improving communication between the board and its employees.

"This board is doing something they don't have to do," said Bill Greenwald, president of the Washington County Teachers Association (WCTA). "It's going to provide teachers an opportunity they've never had before, that is to sit down with an individual board member and have a very frank discussion with them, be able to voice their concerns."

It was Board President B. Marie Byers who came up with the idea for the "Speak Out" meetings as a way of responding to Greenwald's Dec. 10, 1996, request for a private meeting between the school board and his association's board of directors, said Schools Superintendent Wayne F. Gersen.


Gersen said he, Byers and Board Vice President Robert L. Kline were discussing how to accommodate Greenwald's request when Byers pitched the idea.

"We were trying to figure out how, without getting into all kinds of complications with sunshine laws," said Gersen, who praised Byers' creativity. "This was a way - she thought and I agree - of skinning the cat."

Other board members concurred the meetings were a good way to find out what's on the minds of school system employees, he said.

A different group of employees will be targeted with each of the three "Speak Out" meetings, starting with the meeting for teachers on Thursday, Gersen said.

However, employees are welcome to come to whatever meeting that fits their schedule, he said.

The meeting for classified employees is scheduled for Jan. 30. The meeting for administrative and supervisory personnel is set for Feb. 13.

All meetings will run from 6:30 to 8 p.m., using a time-limited format that will break the larger group into five smaller groups for brainstorming sessions on three main questions, Gersen said.

Greenwald, according to Gersen, came up with the first two questions - what can the school board do to improve communications with employees and the community and what can the school board do to improve its relationship with employees and the community?

Gersen said the school board came up with the third question - What can the school board do to improve your ability to perform at a higher level in your job?

Linda Dunn, president of the Washington County Educational Classified Employees Association (WCECEA), said she hopes the meetings will help resolve the many problems she and members of her association see in the school system.

"It sounds like a good idea," Dunn said. "I think there's willingness. If we're really taken seriously, I think a lot of good things can happen."

For Greenwald, the meetings show the school board is willing to reach out to its employees, which should change their perception from the past four years that the board is inaccessible.

"I'm really hoping we can use this new openness to develop a relationship with the new board that's going to benefit the entire community," he said.

Still, Greenwald said he's extended an invitation to Byers and Kline to come to an executive session of the WCTA board of directors.

"We want to be able to convey to the elected board the concerns that we have," he said, noting that a public meeting wouldn't allow full discussion of problem areas because people would be guarded in what they said.

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