Othello board reflects on national conference

May 17—OTHELLO — Monday afternoon's Othello School Board meeting saw a presentation from Superintendent Pete Perez and the board members on their time at the National School Board Association's annual conference from April 6 to 8 in New Orleans.

The presentation discussed topics such as school board governance, strategic planning, programs and implementing those programs and other specific topics such as understanding workforce needs in a school district's community, which board member Lindsey Mollotte Prows shared about.

"They talked a lot about knowing your community and I feel like (Student Services Director) Amy Paris especially has a really good grasp on our community," she said.

Prows said the school that presented on the workforce subject had implemented a six-week, hands-on, full-time internship program with local businesses.

"The clarity that these students got from this six-week internship was really invaluable to know if they wanted to be a veterinarian or not or if they wanted to go into the medical field or if they really wanted to be a mechanic, if they really wanted to work in construction, just all of these different jobs that they could really try out and try on," she said. "So that was one thing I was ... wanting to talk to the high school principal or Amy Paris about, this idea of an internship for our students."

Perez connected the workforce needs to projects the district has already begun implementing.

"I appreciated the connection between what Lindsay described about what we're trying to do with the (commercial driver license) course and what we're trying to do with pursuing an (Associates in Arts degree) full-time in our schools," he said, "like what are those sort of end capstone experiences for our seniors."

Perez also praised the conference for helping provide perspective on the district's own programs.

"I think an important part of attending conferences sometimes is to learn new things but also to affirm the work that you're doing," he said. "What was nice about this one was the commentary about having a plan, thinking about strategic planning ... The picture in our heads of the graduates coming out this year is pretty positive, so it's thinking about how we make that happen consistently for every kid in our community."

Board member Aaron Gerber shared about a session about site visits, which the Othello School Board already implements.

"This was a big one. They talked a lot about school site visits and we're doing that and a lot of what they talked about that we should be accomplishing with those site visits are things that we're doing," he said. "I know that a lot of the board says that the site visits are one of their favorite parts of the job. It certainly is for me."

Board member Chris Baginski spoke about a session from the conference on school board governance.

"I feel like we have a really good board so far here," he said. "We agree to disagree but we get along. We met a lot of boards just in social events or even during the sessions and they don't get along at all, and it's hard to get anything resolved there."

Gerber also commented on the governance session.

"I really liked a lot of the stuff they said about how policy is the implementation of the vision of the direction that we're headed and how it's supposed to represent the goals that we have for our students," he said. "One thing they mentioned that I really liked was that our policies should reflect our community values and that the community should be given the opportunities to have input on those policies."

Gerber also discussed a session on the relationship between the board and the superintendent.

"One thing that they talked about a lot was that the board is meant to steer the boat, not row the boat," he said. "I think some of us like to get into rowing sometimes, but it was a good reminder for us that we are steering."

Baginski reflected on the value of the conference as a whole.

"Thanks again to the community for allowing us to go and the school for putting it in the budget for us, because it was well worth the money we spent. I definitely want to thank the school district for giving us this opportunity; it was a really amazing opportunity."

Gabriel Davis may be reached at gdavis@columbiabasinherald.com.