The Ketchikan School Board gathered for an informal goal-setting session Wednesday evening. The Board took advantage of the discussion to express concern over its relationship with the Borough to a member of the Association of Alaska School Boards.
The goal planning session was focused on reviewing the bylaws that govern the School Board. Timi Tullis of the state School Board Association thought it would help the Board members evaluate how well they’ve served in their roles. But tension between the School Board and Borough Assembly seemed to be on everyone’s mind.
As they talked about the functions of the School Board, Board member David Timmerman asked Tullis if she had ever done a joint work session with a School Board and the Assembly or body that funds it.
“I think it goes to the question that I’ve been trying to form in my head in regards to what our functions are…is what that body’s functions are in regard to us,” Timmerman said. “Because sometimes I feel like our duties are infringed upon by that body. I feel that way a lot. And whether that’s true or not I don’t know.”
Tullis said she had not led a joint discussion like that before. Later on in the meeting, the Borough Assembly came up again. The group was talking about how they aren’t supposed to micro-manage school staff.
“It is unfortunately the Borough Assembly that has this huge problem with doing what you just said,” School Board president Michelle O’Brien. “They ask our staff the micromanagement questions. I’d be interested to see if you have any other boards that have dealt with this in their community?”
“Wow,” Tullis responded. “In my 13 years [with the AASB] I have not heard this type of stresses.”
Superintendent Boyle asked whether she had any suggestions in terms of an organization that could do conflict resolution. Tullis said perhaps the Rasmuson Foundation, and that she would look into it.
“You know here’s the bottom line,” O’Brien said. “I think both bodies want what’s best for this community. But it’s not doing the community any good when both bodies cannot work together.”
“Well again I’ll keep thinking about that,” said Tullis. “Obviously we’re not going to solve that tonight. But I’m hearing you loud and clear and I wish it was something I had more of a magic wand over.”
Tullis said later that while there is often some conflict between school boards and local government bodies that fund them, Ketchikan’s case seems extreme. She said she doesn’t think she’ll be able to do anything, and that hiring an outside mediator might be the best option.