WATERTOWN — During its meeting on Monday, November 22, the Board of Education congratulated Watertown High School Principal Dr. Janet Parlato, who was recently presented with the William Cieslukowski Outstanding First-Year Principal Award from the Connecticut Association of Schools.
This award recognizes a first-year high school principal who has had a positive impact on their school or school district.
As Superintendent Dr. Alison Villanueva congratulated Dr. Parlato, she commented that the recognition was a few years late but, “Better late than never.”
During the meeting, Nick Caruso, senior staff associate for Field Services and Coordinator of Technology for the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, described the roles and responsibilities of education board members.
He pointed out that the superintendent was responsible for decisions and delegation of specific responsilbities; board members were in place to make sure that the superintendent has support and tools needed to do her job.
Mr. Caruso said board members should consider the quality of education and its implementation in Watertown.
He emphasized that the work in front of the board members is based on a process of trust it will take time to learn the basics of their responsibilities and still longer to master them.
He asked the board members to have patience and consider the motivations of others to respect each other. “We have strong values and decide on things that satisfy those values.”
Respect is earned and an operating rhythm with fellow board members will take time to develop.
He also pointed out that many people don’t like to speak publicly and deserve respect and attention as they share input during public participation. “Your meeting is held in public but is not considered a public meeting.”
This means that members of the public are given the privilege of speaking and there are reasonable expectations that can be set such as when public comment will take place during the meeting or limits on the length of speaking time.
For example, the board reminded one resident of the three-minute limit during public participation that meeting as several residents spoke against the change of mascot from Watertown Indians to Warriors.
As Mr. Caruso continued his presentation, he said the board’s business is to complete the steps outlined in the agenda and that respect should be shown by members of the public as the board completes its work.
He touched on a code of ethics and juxtaposed the old approach of “Some students will learn it and some won’t.” Now, all students are expected to learn and that is the responsibility of policymakers and professionals.
Clarifying that the goal is not to blame teachers, Mr. Caruso said that the board is a leadership team tasked with identifying how teachers can be supported so they will succeed.
The presentation also addressed disagreements, highlighting the legislative, executive, and judicial roles of the board.
The members set policy, move forward with actions such as the operations budget, and judge in situations that involve disciplinary action.
“The cameras are always on,” Mr. Caruso cautioned that board members should not undermine the credibility of the board by asking questions outside of the board setting, speaking for the board on social media, or to visit the school without coordinating with the superintendent.
“Stand by what you believe,” he encouraged board members to share their opinions but to support a vote once taken. “We should be issues driven, not personality driven. Concentrate on policy and don’t micromanage.”
Mr. Caruso recommended working through the board chair to filter information because the board members will be approached by people who share their side of a story to influence the board; there are always two sides of a story.
He shared a statement that the board could use, “This problem could end up requiring board action, and if I am involved in it at this level, I will be unable to act on it as a member of the board because it could be a violation of due process. You really need to go through the proper channels.”
The board members have resources where they can ask questions and, following the presentations, expressed gratitude for the information.
Mr. Caruso assured those present that additional workshops would be available.