Tuesday, March 27, 2012


One of the most helpful things to happen for North Canton Board of Education (BOE) credibility was the defeat of Jordan Greenwald as an incumbent board member last November.

As a BOE member, Mister Greenwald was, in the view of the SCPR, way over the top in his "UNinquiring mind" demeanor vis-a-vis the Mike Gallina administration of the North Canton City Schools (NCCS).
Before Jennifer Creighton Kling's election in November, only Chris Thomas of the North Canton BOE appeared to function as a board member (of any school system) ought to be functioning in the public venue:  aware of  and sensitive to the vital concerns of the system's parents, informed about the system's programs, polices and practices and willing to ask probative questions of the administration and thereby prod the administration to strike a proper balance between educational "best practices" and desires of parents and students.

Board member Chris Goldthorpe is certainly capable of and shows some signs of adopting the Thomas/Kling model, but he does not appear to the SCPR to be there yet.

North Canton historically has one of the very best local school systems in all of Stark County.

Parental interest and involvement is intense.  Every board meeting that the SCPR has attended has been well attended by North Cantonians.

Nonetheless, in recent times, by the tone/attitude/distancing of its board of education members, the school system has seemed to be losing the confidence of a number of its parent constituents that the board/administration hears them.

The North Canton BOE now has an opportunity with the stepping up of one more board member to a higher level of community sensitivity to redeem itself and thereby enable the NCCS to become a truly first-rate system "in a to z" fashion.

The Report first became aware of the growing disaffection between the BOE and certain elements of the parent community about a year ago.  (CLICK HERE to see blog of April 24, 2011).

About one year and one-half year ago or so, the North Canton administration began to put together a plan called the Elementary Service Plan (ESP).

Some parents felt that the plan was being purposely developed largely out of the sight of the public and was top heavy with administrators beholden to the preconceived notions of top tier administrators within the Superintendent Mike Gallina administration.

The administration forged through to get the ESP approved by what was perceived by critics as being an overly compliant BOE that did not seem very interested in public input.

Recently the SCPR was contacted by the parent community to follow up on The Report's blog work of last year on the dissatisfaction with the North Canton BOE.

The complaints this time around seem focused on a continuing lack of communication to those parents who for a variety of reasons are unable to attend BOE meetings, meeting-in and meeting-out.

Specifically, these parents are interested in the website (as a communication) of the North Canton City Schools to be ratcheted up to match "state-of-the-art" systems.  Proponents of an improved website component point to the Green City Schools (nearby but over the county line in Summit County) as a model for North Canton to follow.

Moreover, the same folks are interested in North Canton televising (at least on a tape-delay basis) BOE meetings.

Rightly or wrongly, advocates perceive that a combination of administration and a majority of BOE members do not want that kind of scrutiny and are resisting the televise request.

Up until last Wednesday's meeting, the SCPR understands, the administration and BOE have pointed out the expense of televising the meetings as a reason why televising might night not viable.

North Canton (as one of it many first-rate educational offerings) has a terrific TV production program (TV11) run by its student body and guided by able staff person Tom Wilson.  Parents who cannot, for one reason or another, attend a regular board meeting, cannot understand why the TV11 program could not be used to tape and make available on a ramped up website board proceedings for later viewing.

The SCPR was asked to be at last Wednesday's meeting to record the BOE's discussion of televising board meetings aspect of improved board/parent communications as it was on the agenda for the meeting.

Board member Kling did not disappoint.  For a relatively new board member attending only her third meeting on being elected last November, she thoroughly impresses The Report of her grasp of important constituent issues and her willingness in a respectful way to force a discussion of ways to meet community needs. 

The discussion was following a track of paying some $2,400 a year to have a third party contractor come into videotape the meetings for rebroadcast on the district's website.

Rookie member Kling is the member who turned the discussion in the direction of having North Canton High School students do the taping and thereby save the money for other high need "for the students" educational purposes.

In doing so, she appears to have the administration thinking in a new direction.

Here is a video of that discussion.

Off camera, The Report discussed with Superintendent Gallina both the website recommendation (i.e. look at the Green schools site as a possible model for a North Canton upgrade) and the use of students out of the TV11 program to tape board meetings to be accessed by the public on the website.

He said the concern in not considering TV11 from the get-go was Leader Wilson's concern that the students would not do produce "professional" work.

Moreover, Gallina told yours truly that he would indeed look at the Green Schools website and that (as he stated in the board meeting itself) look into having the TV11 students take on the task of videotaping North Canton BOE meetings.

The SCPR does see signs that the North Canton BOE has improved in its connection with its constituents since last year mostly on account of the Kling's election which adds another voice to that of Chris Thomas.  But clearly, more work needs to be done.

Indeed, Thomas and Kling demonstrate that they "get it."

A question remains as to whether or not BOE members Goldthorpe, Marion and Fulton are "getting it" in terms of being able to respectfully but firmly ask hard questions that might prove to be embarrassing to the administration.

Would any of the three want to be thought of as being an impediment to the North Canton City Schools becoming "the best of the best" in terms of the public feeling confident that the BOE is vetting every aspect of the operations of the Dogwood City's school system?

No comments: