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DashBoard, Jan. 11, 2017

Elections have concluded and your first meeting in January is coming up soon (or just happened). You arrive at your meeting and look around the board table asking yourself, “Who is that person?” Well, maybe it isn’t quite like that as you may know they are a new board member, but do you really know them or just know of them?

Whether you’ve started negotiations for the coming year or not, it’s a good time to make sure that you are adequately prepared for the process. The following is a “Checklist for Negotiations” that will help get your negotiations started on the right foot.

Coming on the heels of a rather successful lame duck, we’re looking to get quickly back into the swing of things here at the Capitol with more than 40 new Representatives taking office this January.

The beginning of a new year is a time when many of us look toward the coming months with great expectation. The calendar pages are still crisp, and possibilities are plentiful. For leaders, there is no lack of opportunities to do good work, and those calendar pages that seemed infinite on Jan. 1, start flying by in no time at all.

DashBoard, Jan. 18, 2017

Last spring, the U.S. District Court Judge John Corbett O’Meara issued a permanent injunction barring the Michigan Secretary of State from enforcing the so-called ‘Gag Order Law,’ which severely limited the ability of school districts to communicate with voters about ballot questions, including bond and sinking fund proposals. While there was talk about fixing the statute in question, the problematic language still remains on the books (see Subsection 3).

Gov. Rick Snyder delivered his State of the State address last night to a joint session of the House and Senate. He talked about many of the things that were accomplished in the last year, giving credit to the various legislators and others who helped make them happen.

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee began confirmation hearings on the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary.

Thinking back to when I was a new school board member, I remember reading through my first board packet. Not only did I wonder what it all meant, I began to question my ability to be an effective board member. As I floundered my way through those first few meetings, there were a few things that I found to be very helpful for my transition and in bringing me up to speed. I would like to share those items that I believe are important for all veteran board members to remember as we help transition new board members to their position.

DashBoard, Jan. 25, 2017

Times are difficult on both sides of the bargaining table. With little money to spend, districts are generally offering little in terms of teacher wage increases. Meanwhile, teachers have been seeing their wages suppressed for years and are becoming more and more disillusioned; often directing their frustrations at an increasingly cash-strapped administration. The result can often be gridlock at the bargaining table.

Last Friday, the state School Reform Office issued the most recent bottom 5% list while, at the same time, releasing 79 schools from the Priority School List. According to the state, this is the first time more schools were released from the list than added. In publishing the new list, however, the SRO has also identified 38 schools that now move to the "next level of accountability," which could include closure. Twenty-four of those schools are in Detroit, either the public school district or the Education Achievement Authority.

MASB’s Government Relations Team held 10 regional meetings in September and October of last year across the state to gather input from board members and superintendents on what your Association’s focus should be for the 2017-2018 legislative session. Following the regional meetings, all of the ideas were put into a survey sent out to all board members to choose their priorities for MASB. More than 700 people participated in the survey.

I heard a story a few weeks ago that made my husband laugh, my mother cry and me instantly think about professional learning. It goes something like this. . .

DashBoard, Feb. 1, 2017

MERC has adopted Administrative Law Judge Travis Calderwood’s Decision and Recommended Order that an employer may refuse a union’s request to record investigatory interviews of its bargaining unit members.

Michigan was once again well represented and, along with Texas, had the largest delegation with more than 70 members, at the National School Board Association’s Advocacy Institute in Washington, D.C. earlier this week. In all, more than 700 school board members from across the country descended on our nation’s Capitol to stand up for public education.

MASB is governed by a 19-member Board of Directors made up of two directors from each of the eight Regions, and one director each from Groups V, VI and VII.

Directors are elected by MASB member districts to serve up to three-year terms. Ballots for three Regions (3, 4 and 6) were distributed via email to superintendent secretaries in the last week for each district to cast its vote in this year’s elections.

DashBoard, Feb. 8, 2017

As Gov. Rick Snyder prepares to deliver his budget on Wednesday, four Michigan education associations that represent leaders and decisionmakers in Michigan’s 640 school districts and ISDs have a message for him: make a data-informed decision and invest in public education.

ISD boards of education that hold elections under Section 614 of the Revised School Code were not affected by Public Act 233 of 2011, which moved popular school elections to even years in November. Section 614 elections for ISD school boards are still held biennially on the first Monday in June at a meeting of representatives from constituent boards of education. In 2017, the elections will be held on June 5.

Don Wotruba, Executive Director of the Michigan Association of School Boards, issued the following statement on the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as the U.S. Secretary of Education:

A new year and new legislative session bring new priorities for the Michigan Association of School Boards. Our group represents more than 4,000 elected school board members in over 500 districts across the state.

When school boards and school administrators finalize their hiring decisions, care should be taken to maintain any records relating to hiring new employees. Federal regulations implementing Title VII and the Americans With Disabilities Act require school districts to retain all records pertaining to employment decisions for a period of two years. Specifically, 29 C.F.R. § 1602.40 states that any personnel or employment record having to do with “hiring, promotion, demotion, transfer, layoff or termination” shall be preserved by a school district for a period of two years from the date of the making of the record or the personnel action involved, whichever occurs later.

DashBoard, Feb. 15, 2017

Over the past several weeks, I have had the pleasure of teaching a number of classes to board members, and one topic always sparks a lot of discussion is the Open Meetings Act and electronic communication. At the heart of the matter is the tension between the ease with which we can connect with people at the touch of a button and the OMA requirement that board members conduct their school business in a way that the public can see.

Last week, Gov. Rick Snyder released his 2017-2018 budget recommendations to the Legislature. We were pleased to see that they included a $325 million investment in education. Specific highlights of the School Aid Fund line items include:

Following months of public input, the Michigan Department of Education released the full draft plan for meeting the requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. The draft plan was detailed at yesterday's State Board of Education meeting.

DashBoard, Feb. 22, 2017

Last week, the House Committee on Tax Policy narrowly approved House Bill 4001 after approximately an hour of testimony. HB 4001 as introduced would change the income tax rate from the current 4.25 to 3.9% in 2018, and then each year following would roll it back by 0.1% until it was eliminated.

For districts with labor contracts expiring this summer, now is the time to begin preparing for your labor group negotiations. While over the past few years some laws have changed, removing certain topics from the bargaining table, this does not mean that the negotiation process has become easier. Indeed, as many Michigan districts continue to deal with falling enrollment and decreasing revenues, it has become more difficult than ever to reach an agreement that is fiscally responsible for your district while also satisfying the labor groups.

On Jan. 10, we officially launched the School Finance Research Collaborative, a broad-based and diverse group of Republicans, Democrats, Independents, business leaders and education experts from Metro Detroit to the U.P. who agree it’s time to change the way Michigan’s schools are funded.

DashBoard, March 1, 2017

At the end of January, House Resolution 610 was introduced in Congress by Rep. Steve King (R-IA). The legislation, commonly referred to as the Choices in Education Act, has garnered much attention online and in the media, but it is unclear if or when the legislation could move forward. It is now sitting in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Last week, the House tried to pass House Bill 4001, which would have rolled back the income tax rate. The version that was brought up for a vote would have rolled back the rate to 3.9% over the next four years and added a freeze in the rate if the budget stabilization fund was less than $1 billion. Obviously this was better than total elimination, but our concerns with creating a hole in the budget that totaled more than $1 billion in four years remained.

DashBoard, March 8, 2017

The Michigan Department of Education threw out a “lifeline” to the schools on the state’s potential closure list last Wednesday. In a letter to the affected districts, State Superintendent Brian Whiston provided an option to enter into a partnership model agreement with MDE to turnaround their chronically failing schools. This partnership would give the districts and MDE 18 months to show improvement in the affected schools.

On Monday, the Supreme Court remanded the case of transgender teen, Gavin Grimm, who is seeking to be able to use the boys’ bathroom in his Virginia high school. The Court sent the case back to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, instructing it to reconsider its April 19, 2016 decision, which relied on Obama-era guidance from the U.S. Department of Education. That guidance had concluded that schools “generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity,” including access to bathrooms corresponding to students’ gender identities.