Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

(Board of Ed) Larry Leverett pitches to Board, public

Dr. Larry Leverett speaks to the Board of Ed Tuesday night.

The audience burst into applause when former Superintendent Larry Leverett was introduced at Tuesday night's BOE business meeting. Larry recently retired as the Executive Director of the Panasonic Foundation (more about them here) and is now an educational consultant.

It was a delight seeing him and I felt that having him make a presentation to the Board (and the public) was a hopeful sign that the current situation has been recognized as in need of improvement.

As I have pointed out before, I am a fan of Larry's. During his tenure (1995-2003), I was active (along with the late Dottie Gutenkauf) in electing members of what became a high-functioning Board of Ed. People who were on the Board in those years have since moved on to other positions of high responsibility in the community. To a person, they still remark on the key to their success as Board members was learning to work as a team.

And that was what Dr. Leverett focused on Tuesday evening.

It turns out the presentation (titled "Building School Board Effectiveness and Efficiency") was Leverett Educational Consultant's pitch to the Board to be hired as a consultant to facilitate doing just that: building the Plainfield Board of Ed's effectiveness and efficiency. LEC was represented by Dr. Larry Leverett and Dr. Kaila Baucum-Sanderson (a Plainfield native and PHS graduate).

Before knowing this was a pitch, I suggested to Dr. Leverett that the presentation be put on the District's website -- and even spoke briefly with Board President Morgan about it. As soon as I realized the presentation was a business pitch, I realized why Dr. Leverett had seemed surprised by my suggestion.

Though I was pleased to be able to hear and see the presentation, it did finally seem to me that a public business meeting was not really the best venue.

In fact, the pitch seems a perfect fit for one of the state's exception to the OPMA which allows for certain categories to be discussed in executive session. More so, since two board members touched on the subject of fees in their public questions. Dr. Leverett finessed the questions, but the episode simply highlights an area that is problematic for this Board of Ed.

When it came time for questions from the Board, only Mr. Wyatt and Ms. Pile spoke. I began to wonder if the other Board members had any foreknowledge at all of why Dr. Leverett was there.

Several questions and comments from the audience expressed their frustration over some issues in the District. Dr. Leverett got very serious and pointed out that if hired, his organization would have the Board of Ed as its client, and be responsible to it.

As for issues the community may want addressed, he pointed out his organization's job would be to show the Board how to use the necessary tools to make itself a "high functioning Board," which would include tools for listening to and working with the community stakeholders and take responsibility for tackling tough issues.

Next steps?

Certainly the Board should meet with Larry's organization behind closed doors and get down to brass tacks.

That would be a most hopeful sign.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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