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SCHOOL DISTRICT OF RIVER FALLS: 5/11/09 Special Meeting Minutes

Thursday, June 11, 2009 - 1:17am

Board of Education Special Meeting Minutes

Monday, May 11, 2009

A special meeting of the River Falls Board of Education was called to order on Monday, May 11, 2009, at 7:36 p.m. by President Dennis Behnke in the Administrative Conference Room, 852 East Division Street. It was ascertained that notice of the meeting had been properly published in the River Falls Journal and an announcement was faxed to WEVR Radio Station.


President Dennis Behnke, Vice President Rellen Hardtke, Treasurer Manny Kenney, Clerk Barbara Kolpin, and Members Mike Miller, Stacy Johnson Myers and Alan Tuchtenhagen were present. Also present were Superintendent Tom Westerhaus, Director of Personnel Donna Hill, Director of Finance Chad Smurawa, Director of Special Education Jackie Smurawa, Director of Academics Rick Osterhaus and Technology Supervisor Brian Dado. Also present was Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators Executive Director Miles Turner.


Turner led the workshop on board teamwork and general school board operations. Topics discussed were effective boardsmanship and mutual expectations of long-term and new board members. Committee structure, communications and board responsibilities were also discussed.

Turner emphasized that everyone needs to take time to be an effective team. Trust and teambuilding is what makes an effective board. Trust is built over time. Non-cooperation needs to be overcome. He presented the following observations on how an effective Board builds trust:

• No surprises from the board or administration - surprises destroy that fabric of working together.

• Open, honest communication - you should never feel you have information that no one else has.

• Don't criticize each other (openly or behind backs) - show respect.

• Keep executive sessions totally confidential.

• Be a statesperson, not a politician. (Be one who acts in the best interest of their constituents, not a follower of polls - do the right thing).

• Always make your decisions in the best interest of kids.

• Agree to disagree. Don't lose faith in each other. Don't dislike each other when you disagree. Disagree, and then move on. Don't hold a grudge.

• Democracy works - support the board's vote even if you voted in the minority.

• Don't grandstand, especially on television. You play to politicians when grandstanding.

• Attend meetings together - wherever possible, attend meetings other than board and committee meetings (WASB, CESA, etc - allows you to get to know each other; builds familiarity).

Questions raised were: How do we get board conversation focused on the big picture? When does the asking become micromanaging? How does the board discuss policy without micromanaging?

Turner suggested reviewing the code of ethics on the WASB website (a copy of which can be found at He also made the following points:

• Every once in awhile, you need to step back and think about how you're doing.

• Good boards have a common vision.

• Boards need to debate, argue politely, vote differently if you believe differently.

• As a Board, you have ALL the power of authority in the school district. Individual board members have no authority.

• Give responsibility and the authority that goes with it to appropriate personnel to allow them to do their jobs. The board's obligation is to listen courteously, then go through the chain of command. If you agree to handle a situation on an individual basis, you own it.

• The School Board hires one person, the superintendent. Always go through your superintendent, never around.

• Set up goals and policies, and then monitor them by receiving reports from the superintendent. Everything done has to be done in partnership between the board and administration.

• Work through committee structure and make sure it's working for you. Keep communicating and looking at processes.


President Behnke adjourned the meeting at 9:38 p.m.

Barbara Kolpin, Clerk