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Jeanie Groh column: Get involved with the school board

It’s always the same at Rowan-Salisbury school board meetings.

Dozens of parents, students, teachers and principals show up right on time. They stand and say the pledge of allegiance together, and then Public Information Officer Rita Foil gets up to present the month’s “celebrations,” or recognitions, to district students and employees.

Unless a particularly controversial matter is on the agenda, the boardroom on Long Street becomes a ghost town as soon as celebrations are finished – only the board, the superintendent’s cabinet, those asked to remain present. Oh, and me.

After the meetings, I have another hour and a half to do my best to squeeze four to five hours of policy changes, contracts, proposals, debates and conversations into a 500-700 word story.

While I work very hard to capture facts and the spirit of the meeting in my story, it’s far from a transcript of the meeting. It’s really only a highlight reel (or maybe even the highlights of the highlight reel) of what happened during the meeting.

While reading the stories in the Post the day after school board meetings is a great place to start, I encourage parents and district employees to do more.

I’m not suggesting that everyone show up for every school board meeting, but I am suggesting that community members become more informed and involved.

Start by checking the board’s agenda before each meeting. The agenda typically comes out on Thursday for a Monday meeting. You can find the agenda by clicking on the “Board of Education” option under the “District Information” tab on the Rowan-Salisbury website. It will pull up a new page, and agendas are listed under the “Meetings” tab.

Take the time to scan the topics on the agenda to see if any of them will directly impact you or your child.

For example, a parent of an eighth-grade basketball player might not have any interest in the district’s family and medical leave policy, but they would probably be very interested in the district’s policies on school visitors and school assignment.

The electronic agenda allows for supporting documents to be attached to each item on the agenda.

Have any questions? See something you disagree with or think the board could use some perspective on?

Call or email a school board member (The website also has contact information for each Board of Education member) and show up for the school board meeting.

If you want to speak to the board about an issue, public comment is allowed at each regular school board meeting. Each speaker is allowed three minutes to speak to the board about a topic.

Chairman of the Board Josh Wagner said it’s important for people to be engaged with the school board.

“They elect officials to do certain things,” he said. “People need to stay engaged so they know what those elected officials are doing.”

He added that it “helps to have outside influence” because engaged community members bring up more questions and facets that board members may not see to begin with.

If scheduling or childcare is an issue for you, there is an alternative coming your way next month.

Monday, the board approved a broadcast policy that will be in place for the board’s March 23 business meeting.

The board is purchasing the microphones, cables, speakers, mixing board and video camera to upload a video of the meeting online.

The three largest elected boards in the county are the Salisbury City Council, Rowan County Board of Commissioners and the school board, and both city council and the commissioners have been videoing their meetings for some time now, Wagner said.

“We’re kind of behind the times there. We need to make sure we’re in line with the other two boards,” he added.

“It’s important because it makes it more accessible for folks who can’t be at the meeting,” Wagner said.

“Our minutes can only record so much,” he said, adding that board members and community members alike will be able to go back and visit the audio and video of a meeting after the fact.

While the video will be uploaded by the end of the week, Wagner said the plan for the new district office is to live stream the meetings.

So, now that you know how to become better engaged with the school board, I invite you to stay informed and even join me from time to time.

The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education meets the second and fourth Mondays of each month.

The meetings on the second Mondays are work sessions, primarily for discussion purposes. Right now, they are held at 4 p.m. at the district’s executive office, 314 N. Ellis St. in Salisbury. They may be moved to the administrative offices once video broadcasting begins.

Business meetings are held on the fourth Monday of each month at 5 p.m. at the district’s administrative offices, 110 S. Long St. in East Spencer.

 

Contact education reporter Jeanie Groh at 704-797-4222.

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