On Monday, October 3rd, I decided to take on the journey of attending my first Austin ISD School Board Meeting. As a former teacher, I had heard of the notorious board meetings. Many of my colleagues would whisper about the redundant, monotone dialogue between board members that would quickly put many of them to sleep. So, when I decided to attend my first meeting I knew I would need to be prepared.
The day before attending, I did my research. I mapped out the quickest route from my house to the Board Auditorium, found out where to park, and learned exactly where the meeting would take place.
First Stop: Board Dialogue Meeting
I looked up the agenda for the meeting, a board dialogue meeting. According tothe AISD Board Manuel,
aDialogue Meeting is a supposed to
“give Board members an opportunity to discuss items at the earliest of stages… items would not normally be scheduled for action by the Board at the next regularly scheduled meeting nor would the emphasis be on staff presentations for any particular item.”
Board Members simply discussed new information, but were not necessarily preparing to take action on anything. This Dialogue Meeting covered budget and the District Equity Self-Assessment Scorecard.
An hour before the meeting started, I made a big cup of coffee and took a second cup with me. Heading west on 6th I saw the AISD sign to the left pointing toward the parking lot. I parked in a spot labeled “visitor” that appears to be in between two of the AISD buildings. I grabbed my bag,my coffee cup, and headed to Building B where the Board Auditorium was.
Entering the room, I saw the Board Members in a circle prepared to start. There were three rows of chairs. The far right rows were reserved, so I took a seat in the middle back. As I sat down, I noticed only a handful of others in the audience. When the pledge began, I gave myself a pep talk to stay awake and alert. After the board reviewed the agenda, the meeting got started. Different members of the audience present and speak with the board members.
As the meeting progressed, I was pleasantly surprised. I found myself intently listening to what each presenter and board member was saying. Each point made resonated with me and connected in some way to my classroom and the students that filled it. When I noticed this, I tried to brush off my engagement. Then the next group of presenters discussed the district’s equity self-assessment. Presenters explained three main takeaways and discussed these points with Board members. Again, I was shocked as to how engaged I was. I caught myself scribbling down notes. I looked at the clock and it was 10 PM. Time flew by, but the board was still talking and I had to be up early, so I left. Driving home, I told myself that it was a fluke. Board meetings are supposed to be irrelevant and boring.
Second Stop: Board Work Session
The next Monday, I planned to attend a Work Session. According to the manual, work sessions
“allow the Administration to share data and information about items and to allow Board members to ask questions and discuss issues that will come to the Board for action at a Regular Meeting.”
This means that action could be taken by the Board on these topics at the next Regular Meeting. Walking into the Board Auditorium, I wondered if this meeting would look or feel any different, but it didn’t. It was the same layout with the same sort of discussion and once again, I found myself engaged. I jotted down ideas as people spoke, constantly thinking of how the discussion related to my students’ personal and academic achievement.
On my way home, I decided to admit to myself I liked attending Board Meetings. I learned more about how the School Board’s work directly impacts mine, how my work impacts theirs and how important it is. Board meetings aren’t boring. They aren’t scary. In case you were wondering, there is no difference in the way Board Dialogue Sessions and Board Work Sessions are conducted.
The next meeting to conquer is a Regular Board Meeting!