|Frequently Asked Questions about the Providence School Board|
|What is the role of the Providence School Board?
PSB is the governing body responsible for ensuring that the Providence Public School District provides a high-quality education for all Providence students. Board responsibilities include:
Establishing policy to guide the superintendent in the administration and operation of the schools
|– Monitoring progress toward achieving district goals|
|– Engaging the community in planning for and supporting the schools|
|– Approving annual budget and monitoring district finances|
|– Selecting and evaluating the superintendent of schools|
|The School Board governs within a complex environment shaped by the current national focus on improving student achievement. PSB decision-making is constrained by Federal State laws and regulations, often limited resources, and sometimes competing demands from community members and various constituencies.
PSB is a nine-member Board appointed by the Mayor and affirmed by the City Council. There are three Board officers as directed in the City Charter: president, vice-president and secretary. Appointments generally are made in December with new Board members taking their seats and electing officers every January. Board members adhere to the highest ethical standards, including but not limited to those defined in state law, city codes of ethics, and adopted board codes of ethics. Board members also receive a modest annual stipend.
How does the Board do its job?
The Board actively seeks to represent the entire community and is responsive to community expectations but resists pressure from groups seeking to promote a position inconsistent with the good of the school district as a whole. Individual school board members debate issues, but once policy has been adopted, the Board speaks with one voice through its adopted policies.
The PSB exercises its authority as a whole and does not advance individual or constituent agendas. The agenda for each meeting is determined by the superintendent and School Board president. All decision-making is by majority and a quorum is required; i.e. a minimum of 5 Board members. Action can be taken--approval or disapproval of a recommendation--only when the School Board is meeting in formal session and only items on the adopted agenda can be considered for action.
What is the Open Meetings Act?
The Board must conduct all business in public through publicized meetings as required by RI general law (RIGL) 42-46-1 Open Meetings Act (OMA) (exceptions to open meetings are clearly identified in RIGL 42-46-5).
In compliance with OMA, meeting notices are posted 48 hours in advance of the meeting on the RI Secretary of State website. Meetings are also noticed on Saturdays in the Providence Journal Legal Ads 48 hours prior to the meeting.
All Meeting Agendas are published on the Providence Electronic School Board.
What does the regular meeting agenda look like?
Regular Business Meetings are held in the School Board Room on the 3rd Floor of the Administration Building. The agenda includes:
Report on executive session votes: any vote taken on any matter in executive session must be disclosed in open session within a reasonable amount of time.
Recognitions: the Board looks forward to opportunities to recognizing students, teachers, administrators and other staff for outstanding achievements in the school, classroom, on the field, or other achievements that rise to the level of exceptional performance particularly at the state and national levels.
Policy & Planning: senior administrative staff present new or revised policies, program updates, and/or other informational items.
Public Comment: opportunity for members of the public to address the Board.
Business Items: routine personnel actions, student related issues, contracts, administrative appointments, and action items on issue previously vetted by the Board and/or administrative recommendations.
Personnel Appointments: non-routine personnel actions, central administration positions, building administrator appointments.
Contracts: all PSD contracts that exceed $5000.
Action items may include:
|– Building Lease/Sublease Approvals|
|– Budget Adoption|
|– Consolidated Resource Plan|
|– Policy Adoption|
|– Collective Bargaining Agreements|
|– Other as directed by senior staff|
|– Other as directed by the School Board|
|Superintendent's Report: opportunity for the Superintendent to inform and/or update the Board on district events/happenings.
Future Meetings: regularly update meetings calendar including special meetings.
Governance: Board members report on individual, Board and/or sub-committee initiatives.
School Board Comments: opportunity for Board members to share general comments, questions, or observations.
What is a Consent Agenda?
Consent agenda items are non-controversial and may include personnel actions, student exclusions, home school candidates, and/or other items of a routine nature. The Board votes on all items listed under the consent agenda using a single motion: “motion to approve the consent agenda.” It is seconded and the vote is taken to approve or disprove the motion.
Board members may, at their discretion, request that an item be removed from the consent agenda for discussion. In that case, the removed item will be voted on separately.
What is Executive Session?
Executive session refers to a closed meeting that the public is not allowed to attend. RIGL 42-46-5 delineates nine purposes for a closed meeting - PSB primarily, but not exclusively, seeks executive session for these 4 purposes:
|– Personnel Issues|
|– Collective Bargaining or Litigation|
|– Student Disciplinary Hearings|
|Executive sessions must clearly state the reason for the closed meeting and are subject to the same public notification timelines as open meetings. Click here for further information on closed meetings.
What is Public Comment?
The School Board is charged with the legal responsibility of carrying on the official business of the school district. While the public is invited and encouraged to attend meetings, School Board meetings are meetings held in public.
During each regular Board meeting, members of the community are invited to address the Board during Public Comment. Members of the community who wish to address the School Board must complete a request form BEFORE the start of the meeting. Comment forms are available in the meeting room 30 minutes before the start of the meeting. The Board limits individual to 3 minutes:
|– Comments should be brief and focused on the issue(s)|
|– It may be helpful to write down some thoughts before approaching the Board|
|– Groups or organizations are encouraged to appoint a spokesperson|
|– Individuals are welcome to submit and/or add comments in writing|
|The School Board welcomes comments from the public but does not engage in dialog with the public during business meetings.
How does the Board communicate with the Community?
Minutes, PSB Board Briefs, Board Reports
The PSB is committed to communicating with the community about its actions:
* Electronic School Board provides access to the official meeting agendas and minutes of all Board actions. School Board Minutes provide the official record of all Board votes and actions taken during meetings and are required by the RI Open Meetings Act. The Open Meetings Act requires the School Board to keep written minutes of all meetings.
– PSB Board Briefs is issued by the Providence School Board and are designed to inform staff members and constituents on discussions and actions taken by the Board at its most recent meeting -- PSB Board Briefs is not intended to represent meeting minutes. PSB Board Briefs is distributed electronically to school department staff and the larger community via e-mail and published online online in the Electronic School Board Reference Library
– Board Reports are available from the Superintendent's Office or Communications Office and are also available online.
How does the Community communicate with the Board?
The Providence School Board cordially invites you to participate in Board meetings, and to take an active role in educational affairs. There are many ways for you to be involved including:
– Keeping informed and interested in schools
– Communicating with Board members by letter or telephone
– Appearing before the School Board to express your views during Public Comment
– Participating on committees, educational committees, or civic organizations
Contact your school principal or the PSD central administration for information on ways you can be involved.
How to solve staff and school-based problems?
If a parent/guardian or a community member wishes to express themselves regarding a specific school, teacher or child, dialogue should begin at the level closest to the concern.
|Step One: Contact teacher or guidance counselor|
|Step Two: Contact principal (if a school-wide concern, this becomes step one.)|
|Step Three: Contact appropriate central administrator|
|Step Four: Contact Superintendent or designee|
|What is School Board Policy? What are Regulations?
* School Board Policy establishes the rules, guidelines, and goals adopted by the School Board as a legal entity; sets direction, states what the Board wants and why; sets goals, provides a framework for specific requirements; assigns authority and establishes controls. Policies provide the legal basis for the school system and the conditions for accountability throughout the school system.
– Regulations are administrative procedures, rules, prohibitions; the means or “how-to” implement Board policy; define do’s and don’ts, provide details to carry out and enforce policy. Regulations are developed by administration and may or may not be subject to Board review and approval.