Friday, July 15, 2011

Orangeburg trustees learn from national conference

Thank goodness that parents and citizens in Orangeburg 5 support having their school trustees hear points-of-view from other school leaders from across the nation, and building relationships with these leaders across our state borders. Isolationist tendencies helped the ruling elite of South Carolina to keep our state and its educational system stunted for generations -- the better to keep us under control.

Several Orangeburg Consolidated School District Five trustees attended the National School Boards Association's annual convention in San Francisco at a cost of more than $12,500.

Trustees Lisa Jenkins, Robert "Bo" Gathers, Mary Ulmer, the Rev. Nathaniel McMillan and Julius Page attended the convention in April that offered training on numerous topics, including legal issues, how to influence legislation, how to involve the community and technology in the classroom.

I hope that training session on influencing legislation was a powerful one.

While the South Carolina School Boards Association provides much of the same information, Superintendent Cynthia Wilson says that sending the board members to the convention was well worth the money.

The national convention provides "more participants, more sessions and they're broader," she said. "Board members got exposure to many more districts. We're creating a world-class school system, and that's getting out and seeing the world - seeing what other people are doing successfully."

The convention also gave board members the sense that school districts all over the country are facing the same issues, Wilson said.

In South Carolina, because education policy is governed or largely influenced by the legislature, it's critical that educators -- including school board trustees -- collaborate and speak with one voice when dealing with recalcitrant, and even antagonistic, legislators. We have to stop, as a community, assuming that everyone who stands for public office will be a supporter of public education; and we have to, as a community, take responsibility for promoting candidates who will. To see the results of not collaborating, and of not being an active part of promoting and electing good candidates, we have only to look around us today.

Trustees might also bring back a better understanding of how to deal with the legislature, she said.

"Last year, we struggled with the legislative agenda in Columbia," Wilson said. "They really needed to be aware of policy, the law and how to engage the community."

That's the truth.

Jenkins, the chairperson of the board, says the conferences are valuable to the district.

In an email sent to The Times and Democrat, she said that information board members have gained at national conventions has influenced them to bring about many positive changes "in the way OCSD5 goes about its business, which remains providing our children a world class education."

"School Board Conferences continue to provide OCSD5 trustees valuable training in legal, finance, management and student performance issues that public education faces on a yearly basis," Jenkins said.

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