Scrivner, Adams weigh in on goals for upcoming school board term
From staff reports
Two new Jessamine County Board of Education members were elected earlier this month, Steven Scrivner and Denise Adams.
Scrivner is a graduate of Bryan Station High School and the University of Kentucky, where he earned a bachelor of arts in communications and a master of public administration. He has spent the past 17 years working in the continuing medical education field, including three years spent at WebMD in their professional education division. He runs his own medical education company called Novus Medical Education. He is also serving his first year as a member of the West Jessamine Middle School Site-based Decision-making Council, and previously spent two years as the treasurer for the Renaissance Run Homeowners Association.
Adams was the founding principal for The Providence School in Wilmore in 2014. Her previous work experience includes the Center for Safe Schools and the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice as a transition consultant. She studied education and counseling psychology at the University of Kentucky and also attended Eastern Kentucky University. She is a graduate of Jessamine County High School.
JJ: What is the most important responsibility of a school board?
DA: In my opinion, the most important task of a school board is to hire a superintendent who is a top-notch educator and leader.
SS: The school board’s most important responsibility is to make sure we have a top-notch superintendent leading our school system on a daily basis. An organization is going to function only as well as the leadership provided, and the culture created from top down, so that has to be our most important responsibility.
JJ: How would you handle the requests if approached by an individual or special-interest group?
DA: I would handle the requests of individuals and special-interest groups identically. First, I would listen, answer questions if possible and direct the group or individual to the appropriate person in the school district.
SS: I will always be willing to listen to my constituents, particularly those with an interest in seeing our students succeed, but it’s important to make sure that specific requests and/or issues are channeled to the superintendent, so he and his team can address them accordingly
JJ; What is your vision for education in this community?
DA: My personal vision for the children and families of Jessamine County aligns closely with the vision superintendent Moore’s team is currently utilizing to direct the work of the district. I am unapologetic in my fervor to see every child reading at the highest level we can help them attain. I believe every graduate should have mastered basic math skills. I am supportive of the district’s current mission to help students become life- and work-ready, helping them discover their passion and purpose. When a student graduates from one of our schools, their work habits and tenacity should be well-developed and tested.
SS: I believe in the idea that stronger schools equal a stronger community, so I’m interested in any idea or initiative that will lead to higher student achievement. At the same time, the school system must make sure it’s doing all it can for those students who will forego college for trade work because career readiness is just as important to them as it is for those who have additional academic aspirations. Doing so would hopefully increase our graduation rate.
JJ: What kind of relationship should a district/the board have with its community? With its parents and families?
DA: School board members are the community’s leaders in education. The district’s leaders and the school board must engage in community affairs always promoting the district’s successes and needs. I believe it is the role of the district, and school board, to find ways to engage authentically with parents and families, particularly families who do not readily engage with us. I do not believe we will resolve our attendance issues without face to face interactions, and the best time to interact with families about attendance is at the entry point to school, pre-school and kindergarten, before children fall behind in development.
SS: To me, the ideal relationship between a board and its community is one based on an exchange of information. Board members should be visible and accessible in the community so they’re in touch with concerns and issues that arise. They should also be a conduit of information back to the community so people feel as though they’re part of the larger discussion aimed at moving our schools forward. As I mentioned, board members should be visible and accessible, but I would extend that to everyone in Jessamine County, not just those parents in their district.
JJ: With one or two meetings a month, all school boards are limited in what they can do. How does/should the board decide what’s most important? How can the board be accessible to your community?
DA: Being a novice board member, this question is a bit difficult to answer. However, I believe common sense and direction from Superintendent Moore and his team will help determine which agenda items are both important and urgent. If there is disagreement among the board members occasionally about the importance of individual agenda items, I think that is a sign of a board that is functioning well. Summaries of school board minutes are on the district’s website, and school board members are readily available through email. Due to hearing loss, email is better for me than telephone calls.
SS: The board chair is ultimately responsible for setting the agenda, but it’s done in collaboration with the superintendent and his staff, and I trust they’re in tune with what the most pressing issues are and what can be tabled until a later date. Each board member has a voice and it’s up to us to make sure issues of importance are introduced in advance, so they can be considered for discussion. The easiest way to be accessible is through email and social media such as Facebook and Twitter, but that can’t replace face-to-face interaction. Jessamine County is a small community.
JJ: How can you contribute to a successful board meeting?
DA: I can contribute to successful board meetings by showing up prepared and being totally engaged with the discussion. As a new board member, I will spend a lot of time asking questions and learning.
SS: My biggest contributions will come through careful preparation, deliberate consideration of each issue and promoting a collegial environment amongst board members. We’re all faced with time constraints so showing up to each meeting prepared and bringing a positive attitude will go a long way toward having a productive meeting.
JJ: What are the leadership responsibilities of school board members?
DA: Aside from hiring and evaluating the superintendent, other important responsibilities include approving district policies and allocating resources to support student achievement. Additionally, the school board interacts with personnel from individual schools and various community organizations, attends many of the functions within a school district, adopts district plans and closely monitors student achievement. My awareness of responsibilities will expand as I become more knowledgeable and experienced.
SS: Board members hold a position of leadership just by having been elected. I think it’s important for us to hold ourselves to a higher standard of conduct than perhaps we did before. Obviously complying with all state laws that pertain to serving as a board member is part of that. I think it’s important to communicate regularly with the public, particularly when it comes to explaining actions taken. Social media makes it easy for misinformation to spread quickly. We can do our part to combat that by being open and up front. We have to be good listeners.
JJ: What are the current challenges facing education/school boards?
DA: Again, this is a slightly difficult to answer as Steve Scrivner and I will not be sworn in until January. However, my experience with the school system assures me I will be torn between funding priorities often. That was the case when I was a principal, and I expect it to be the same as a board member on a grander scale. I am anxious to learn more about how the pension crisis has impacted local school districts, and I also expect charter schools to become a more pressing matter over the next year.
SS: The most pressing challenge is the cut in funding from state government. It’s important to make sure our kids have access to the resources they need to succeed and substantial cuts in the budget make for some very tough conversations and decisions. But we can help address that by improving our attendance rate because just nominal improvement in that area would offset a good portion of those cuts.
JJ: What qualities, behaviors should board members exhibit?
DA: School board members should be selfless and serve with intentions to create possibilities and viable options for every child in our community. I am sure board members have to be courageous sometimes, like all leaders.
SS: I think the best quality a board member can possess is to have a genuine desire to help others. Basically, be involved for the right reasons. At the end of the day, we’re all on the board to help improve student achievement so every issue we discuss should be framed in those terms. Aside from that, I think being thoughtful and respectful are the two things every board member should strive to exhibit.
JJ: What is the public relations role of a school board?
DA: School board members have an obligation to promote Jessamine County and its students across the state at meetings and trainings, and to be a visible advocate locally for students, teachers, and other district employees within the community.
SS: The board, in concert with the district administration, owe it to the community to champion public education so I think any action that helps the community stay informed about what’s going on is a good thing. Celebrating achievement is a given, but we must also make sure we’re honest about our shortcomings and address them in a transparent manner if we want the public to have confidence in our ability to do what they elected us to do.