WESTFIELD, NJ – After a brief regular meeting on Tuesday night, the Westfield Board of Education held a special workshop to review the roles and responsibilities of its members.
Led by David Nash, Esq., Director of Legal Education for the NJPSA/FEA, the group examined how and where the state board of education, commissioner of education and superintendent all come into play.
With Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan in attendance, Nash stressed the importance for board members to bring concerns to the superintendent as part of the chain of command. The superintendent, according to the FEA, serves as chief executive and administrative officer of the board of education.
In reviewing the Code of Ethics for School Board members, Nash highlighted guidelines that are often cited in courtroom deliberations, pointing towards the fourth which reads, “I will carry out my responsibility not to administer the schools but, together with my fellow board members, to see that they are well run.”
According to Nash, this code is often violated involuntarily as board members attempt to remedy situations without following the district’s procedure.
“Generally, it is well-intentioned because your instinct when someone brings a problem to you is what? Fix it. That’s what we want to do,” Nash said. “But, we have to go through the right process to do that.”
The group also examined instances in which board members are questioned in a public setting and misinformation spread through social media.
“It happened to me twice today, as a matter of fact,” Board President Gretchan Ohlig said in regard to conversations in the Westfield Facebook group. “There is an inclination on my part to educate, but I also appreciate that that’s not the forum. But when is it the forum?”
Nash empathized with the urge to correct the public through Facebook, but cited the ethics commissioner in saying that board members are still representing the schools through personal Facebook pages. Again, the best method for dealing with such a scenario would be to alert the superintendent and offer a solution through proper channels such as letters to the editor, he said.
Concluding with fictional scenarios to analyze, the board referenced the code of ethics to determine the best solution for problems that may present themselves in modern public schools.
Westfield public schools will be closed for holidays/religious observances on Monday, Oct. 3, Tuesday, Oct. 4, Monday, Oct. 10 and Wednesday, Oct. 12. Offices will remain open with the exception of Columbus Day on Oct. 10.