Committees effective, but only when working
Tuesday, June 17, 2014 12:00 AM
We humans tend to appreciate structure. We apply it in our work places, with everything from job descriptions to company flow charts. Methodologies are spelled out and (usually) followed. We have structures in our home lives, too, whether it’s a division of duties among a couple or a chart detailing what duties the children will carry out in maintaining the home. Church-goers also are familiar with structure, not only with regard to how each Sunday service is conducted, but also how the church’s day-to-day business is carried out by boards of deacons, sessions and the like. Nonprofit and for-profit organizations enjoy the benefits of structure. And certainly our various governmental bodies have structures in place.
OK, you get it. Structure is a part of what and who we are, how we can and do function in this world. So what’s the point? The point: Structures are put in place for good reason and, for equally good reason, ought to be employed and used to their fullest extent.
In reporting earlier on Greenwood School District 50’s budget for this new fiscal year, the Index-Journal learned the school board has a committee structure that had been tossed aside and ignored. Board policy establishes the committee structure and even states a belief that committees are effective in carrying out board business. As such, the board has four committees: building/facilities, curriculum, finance/personnel and policy. Perhaps had the policy committee been meeting and attentive to the fact committees are supposed to be operating, the matter would not have surfaced at all. It surfaced, however, when the newspaper learned the finance/personnel committee was not meeting because, as current board chairman Shell Dula told our reporter for a story published June 1, there are no individual committee meetings because they are not a necessary process for the board to conduct business.
Aside from that being in direct conflict with board policy, it is a line of thinking that’s hard to comprehend. Granted, some committees seem to hinder progress. Anyone who has served on a committee likely can attest to that fact. But when it comes to conducting the public’s business -- and surely a school board does precisely that -- a committee structure is necessary. Committees help by delving deeper into their particular areas of function. A finance committee, for example, is established so it can pore over the financials and have a deeper understanding and knowledge of the budget details. It can then, in fact, come to the full board prepared to make recommendations on financial matters. Committees, as is true of boards, are a means of providing oversight, direction and accountability. Committee structures simply help in the process of boards’ operations. In short, committees help boards perform their duties.
That is why we were as surprised as we suspect many readers and taxpayers were to learn committees had been abandoned by the D50 board. How, we wondered, can the board operate effectively without committees unless, perhaps, its members are simply taking what is presented to them by paid administrative staff and giving its blessings? And if that is the case, then the board is an ineffective and irresponsible elected body.
So we were greatly heartened when at its last board meeting June 10, committees were appointed and re-established. We will be further heartened upon learning those committees are actually meeting and carrying out the business they are appointed to oversee. That will become evident when those committees’ chairmen and chairwomen are on the board meeting agendas and give their reports to the full board.