TUSCUMBIA — School boards statewide are in the process of approving the state-required model code of conduct, which outlines proper procedures that board members should follow as individuals and as a group while conducting school business.
“This is just a reminder that the board needs to operate with the highest standard of stewardship and public service,” said Tuscumbia Superintendent Mary Kate Smith. “This gives the state school board and superintendent more authority in governing local school boards. I don’t anticipate any problems.”
Smith and Tuscumbia school board members are already familiar with the code following last year’s accreditation review from AdvancED, the districtwide accrediting arm of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The Tuscumbia school board was cited by AdvancED for micro-management and placed on “accredited warned” status.
The school system has worked the past year to satisfy the agency’s requirements for correction and improvement, including the creation of a systemwide policy manual and providing proof of transparency in dealings with the public and school personnel.
The state’s code of conduct is another measure to help keep school boards on track, school board member Steve Carpenter said.
“It’s my understanding that the state is trying to get everyone on every school board on the same playing field and to make sure they understand the chain of command and it reinforces what boards are supposed to be doing,” he said. “There needs to be some form of governance for every school board in the state, complete with reprimands when needed.”
Carpenter said he doesn’t yet know how the code of moral conduct will be enforced.
“Our board is in a situation that we’ve already addressed many of these issues, but I could see how it could eventually be strong enough to hold all boards accountable,” Carpenter said. “If nothing else, it gives the superintendent a starting place for issues to be addressed.”
The conduct policy for individual board members covers attendance at meetings to refraining from using the position for personal gain. It also calls for board members to make decisions on policy matters only after consideration at public board meetings.
The policy states board members should work in cooperation in spite of differences of opinion; make decisions in accordance with the interests of the school system as a whole; and abide by and support all majority decisions of the board.
In addition, board members must provide opportunities for all members to express opinions prior to board action, evaluate the effectiveness of policies and programs to improve system performance, honor the superintendent’s authority for the day-to-day administration of the school system and regularly communicate board actions and decisions to students, staff and the community.
Lisa Singleton-Rickman can be reached at 256-740-5735 or lisa.singleton-rickman@TimesDaily.com.