On the 18th of May, the Dover Public Schools (DPS) conducted a Board of Education meeting to approve financial reports and decisions and discuss organizational climate improvement initiatives and collaboration plans for the upcoming academic year. The current public health emergency contributed to selecting the virtual meeting format, and all prospective participants had been provided with detailed conference accessing instructions in sufficient time in advance. The meeting was well-organized and followed a predetermined plan to allow for the effective use of time. After a flag salute, the participants cited the board’s vision and mission, involving welcoming diverse student populations and advocating for their access to high-quality education services (Dover Public Schools (DPS), 2021). Then, the first presentation devoted to battling racism in educational institutions was announced.
Matthew Gonzalez, a director of the Integration and Innovation Initiative, a project that supports school integration, gave a presentation on the NYU Metro Center. This organization conducts racism prevention research and supports schools in designing anti-racist policies and initiatives. The presenter reviewed the research center’s current anti-racist initiatives, delved into schools’ opportunities for translating students’ process improvement ideas into positive systems-level change, and explained six essential topics in building anti-racist organizational cultures, ranging from decentering whiteness in education to the instrumentalization of intersectionality (DPS, 2021). After the presentation, there was a Q&A session during which Mr. Gonzalez further explained the benefits of collaboration with the NYU Metro Center for public schools.
The presentation and discussion of a draft of the school board’s Communications and Community Relations Plan for the next school year also took place. Using slides, Scott Miller introduced four focus areas to be emphasized in the final plan: digital platform strategies, inter-organizational partnerships and network participation, key district messages, and district- and building-level focus (DPS, 2021). The presenter explained that the focus areas would lay the groundwork for the district’s communication strategy and should be made available to the community for informational purposes (DPS, 2021). The presentation contained a detailed overview of the lines of effort in each priority area, such as designing effective staff mass notification systems, parent inclusion via social media, further refinement of crisis communication protocols, and other aspects of operation (DPS, 2021). The introduction of the draft was followed by a brief discussion of the plan’s focal points and the district’s technical opportunity to instrumentalize social media statistics to achieve the plan’s purposes.
Finally, aside from post-presentation conversations, the thirteen Board of Education members engaged in the discussion of financial and organizational decisions peculiar to the operation of the Dover School District. Specifically, the members got acquainted with and approved the treasurer’s and the secretary’s reports for March 2021, payments of bills, budget line transfers for March 2021, and the cafeteria report (DPS, 2021). The meeting’s participants also evaluated and approved some asset disposal initiatives, such as the decisions to sell two of the district’s buses and continue to participate in the Morris County Cooperative Pricing Council (DPS, 2021). The discussion also led to the approval of revised tuition contracts for the Morris Plain Schools and joined transportation costs between the DPS and a host district for the upcoming school year (DPS, 2021). The fruitful discussion was organized in a way to enable all members to offer their perspectives and suggestions but without interrupting others and making their brief speeches protracted.
The experience of attending the abovementioned online event has been helpful in improving my knowledge of public administration and approaches to official meeting organization, thus leading to practice-oriented takeaways. The recording of the Zoom event and the meeting’s agenda demonstrate the topmost importance of establishing and explaining the commenting and contribution rules and their ethical and legal dimensions prior to the session. Moreover, the peculiarities of plan development in actual public administration contexts constitute another area of new learning.
As the meeting demonstrates, basic professional conduct directions for participants include avoiding mentioning any personal disagreements or particular employees’ or students’ cases. Also, refraining from irrelevant comments on collateral issues and remaining mindful of legal liability risks for defamation are emphasized. Such measures effectively support meetings’ official tone, optimal time management, and local government units’ public reputation. Therefore, for me, attending the virtual meeting served as the opportunity to study real-life scenarios in which the rules create a professional work environment to achieve a perfect balance between preliminary analysis/research and the active phase of policy setting.
Finally, the project introduced me to the basics of plan development at the school board level, which could facilitate the understanding of planning processes at other organizational levels. The discussion of the Communications and Community Relations Plan for 2021-2022 in the second part of the meeting exemplifies the principles of teamwork, graduality, and priorities in planning. Regarding the teamwork, the board members were invited to share their suggestions and comments regarding the plan’s viability and the presence of technical and intellectual resources to integrate web analytics technologies into the proposed efforts. The following two principles find reflection in the emphasis on priority identification tasks and moving from the general streams of work to the realizable and mutually approved lists of objectives and community collaboration measures to be undertaken. These fundamental decision-making tenets make planning in public administration and other contexts, including business settings and large-scale governmental projects, partially similar.
Dover Public Schools. (2021). Dover Public Schools BOE meeting – 5-18-2021 [Video]. YouTube. Web.