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A behind the scenes look at what it takes to be on the Elsberry R-II School Board

Posted on Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 8:40 am

Being an Elsberry School Board Member is not just about attending a meeting once a month. It’s not about making last second decisions and approving anything and everything that comes across the desk. According to Elsberry School Board President Sean O’Brien, it’s all about communication and growth.

“It used to be a once a month thing,” said O’Brien. “It used to be there wasn’t a whole lot going on. I mean we’d get a report once a month, or a packet, that would indicate to us if there was a student issue or a personnel issue, even a community issue. Now it’s a whole lot more involved.”

According to O’Brien, the board members are given daily updates on what is happening with the school and the community and every Friday they get an email indicating all the updates for the week.

“Communication is our biggest thing now,” said O’Brien. “Here of late there has been a lot of communication between us with getting Bond issues passed and other things streaming throughout the District.”

In the past, O’Brien mentioned how there are almost daily discussions between him and Elsberry Superintendent Tim Reller, Ed.D. on community and school related topics. There are at least a one to two times a day communication between them, to the point where O’Brien said he made a jokable comment on how he doesn’t think he has ever talked to a superintendent more than he has with Dr. Reller lately.

“We speak everyday, sometimes two, three, four times a day,” explained O’Brien. “And really there is a lot going on and in my mind we have a great school system, which I believe a lot of that has to do with our ability to communicate with one another as a board.”

Although there are still several things that need to be done throughout the District, O’Brien say’s they are as close to perfect as he thinks any one district could get. However, no two people are always going to see eye to eye, there are always going to be issues.

“They may be trivial issues but they are still issues and is still something that needs to be handled as a board,” said O’Brien. “One of the great things about our community and our district is the community has no issues relaying to us their concerns and we in turn relay them to each other or Dr. Reller and adjust accordingly, or vice versa.”

According to O’Brien it’s best they stay in contact with one another when issues arise than get blind-sided at the last minute. At the end of the day, O’Brien said communication has never been better in the District than it is right now.

“I mean it was good in the past but with the advances in technology we have today, it is so much nicer,” said O’Brien

However, one of the biggest issues the school board has, which will always be an issue, is the dollars. According to O’Brien, the budgets are not just a once a month sitting down and see what can be done kind of issue.

“It’s an ongoing problem that I think all districts face,” explained O’Brien. “It’s a communication line that takes place all the time, whether it be superintendent, teachers and board or what have you. It’s a struggle and one we have been lucky to handle the way we have.”

But that is not the only difference between the Elsberry School Board and other’s. One of the biggest advantages they have had in the Elsberry district is consistency. Unless there has been a retirement or something extremely dramatic, the Elsberry School Board has seemingly had the same members, or most of the same members for quite sometime, something O’Brien said makes the job, by far, easier.

“Working together and being able to know what to expect out of this member or that member, is a great thing for any district to have,” said O’Brien. “It’s been a long lasting board. Do we always see eye to eye – no, but we always manage to find a common agreement that works for the students, the teachers and everyone involved. Remember, students come first and anything we do is for what best serves them and their future.”

O’Brien went on to say how he is impressed with the lack of personal agendas he has seen in his 16-years on the board. According to him, the changes that have been brought to the table by past and current board members have always served the best interest of the students.

“It’s so nice to be able to work with the people I work with and see all they are able to bring to the table and know it’s for the kids, not for themselves,” said O’Brien. “Their thoughts and their plans, even if they are new, still go hand in hand with our thoughts and plans in what is best for the students. Give them the safest environment, give the best education we possibly can and do any and everything we can to ensure them the best future possible.”

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