by Luke Francois, Superintendent
As the Mineral Point School District moves forward in the budget development process tough decisions will be made. The board will listen to community stakeholders and make choices between spending money in attempt to impact student learning and reducing resources in demonstration of fiscal restraint. Inevitably this delicate cross-walk creates conflict.
At the January convention of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, WASB Governance Consultant Cheryl Stinski stated, “Conflict occurs naturally and can present an opportunity for growth, understanding, and change. When ignored or mismanaged, conflict can be a destructive force that wastes time, energy and money while damaging the kind of working relationships necessary for getting things done.”
At times, the board will be at odds with myself as superintendent and at times even at odds with each other. In such times it is important to embrace conflict as an opportunity for growth and focus on problems rather than people. At board meetings stakeholders are encouraged to present their own issues, problems, or proposals in a constructive manner.
Individual stakeholders may disagree with board action, but once a decision is made, must support the decision of the board as a whole. Debate and differing points of view are encouraged at board meetings with care and respect to avoid an escalation or negative impressions of our district.
Richard DuFour, in his book ‘On Common Ground,’ writes, “We know of no faculties that have developed their capacity to create a PLC (Professional Learning Community) that did not experience failure and conflict along the way. Failure and conflict are inevitable byproducts of substantive change processes.” (P. 251)
In schools across the state the only constant is change, and substantive change invites conflict. In the midst of this conflict, I pledge to listen carefully to all concerned parties, brainstorm and discuss all solutions in a positive manner, and find agreement in a final solution that best resolves the conflict.