Mashpee School Committee chairman Scott P. McGee and committee members Don D. Myers and Phyllis A. Sprout were among 6,000 school board members in attendance at the 74th annual National School Boards Association conference from last Friday through Monday in New Orleans.
Although the school committee had budgeted $2,500 per person or $7,500 total for the conference, including the cost of registration, flight, hotels, and meals, Mr. McGee said that cheaper flights allowed them to reduced their expenses to roughly $6,000 total. The school committee will decide how to use the remaining funds in the coming months, he said.
He said the educational experience for the three committee members outweighs the monetary value of the trip.
“Professional development is really what it’s all about,” said Mr. McGee from the conference, during a phone conversation Monday. “How to define how you run your school committee and communicate with the public.”
The conference, which took place at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, offered workshops on subjects ranging from technology use in schools to governance of school boards and handling legal matters.
Some of the most valuable information for Mr. McGee involved community outreach.
“I think we’re a little behind on how we present our agenda and, for example, how we present our [meeting] packets to the public,” he said.
The conference allowed Mr. McGee to critique the committee’s approach to communication. For example, he said that committee members currently send meeting agendas to about 20 to 30 people, but could post them on the website for more accessibility.
The challenge, he said, is reaching residents who seek engagement with the schools but lack access to technology, some of whom do not have cell phones or access to the Internet. Regardless, the school committee needs to make a concerted effort to reach them.
“I’ve had a few people say to me, ‘Oh, I didn’t know there was a meeting’ or [didn’t know] an item on the agenda was going to be brought up,” Mr. McGee said. “I’ll say, ‘It’s in the newspaper and it’s on the website’ and they say, ‘I don’t look at the news.’”
Speaking with other school board members in between workshops—Mr. McGee unexpectedly ran into Barnstable superintendent Mary Czajkowski, along with several other Massachusetts school board members—broadened his perspective on the management of school districts. Laws governing school boards vary throughout the country, and comparatively, he said that Mashpee is lucky to have fewer restrictions and more freedom than other districts.
“It’s amazing to see how other districts handle things,” he said.
Correction: Changed "among 90,000 school board members" to "among 6,000 school board members" in the first paragraph.