By Katie McCoy
Entirely East Lansing
EAST LANSING – Members of the East Lansing School Board discussed re-establishing a liaison role with parent councils at their March 28 meeting.
For several years in the past, a liaison would be a member of the school board who would attend specific parent council meetings and would give information to and from the School Board.
Currently, board members do not fulfull this role. The board agreed to disband liaisons beginning this school year because of the time commitment, with the board members attending every School Board meeting on Mondays as well as attending the parent council meetings on their own time.
“I think part of the reasoning behind not having liaisons was because of the time commitment board members were making to committees and their liaison appointments,” said board member Kate Powers.
School Board President Nell Kuhnmuench said she has no opinion regarding the future of liaisons but board members must be aware of the time spent toward certain parent associations.
“Members of the board are not paid,” said Kuhnmuench. “Everything we do is pro bono and on our own time. It’s a lot to ask for the board members.”
Powers said that if the board does decide to re-establish the relationship, then they must sit down and have a serious conversation about the School Board’s work session format, meaning they must work to balance the school board and the parent council agendas.
“The role of the liaisons needs to be very clear to both the organizations or the parent councils,” said Powers. “They need to know their purpose.”
In the past, people liked having a liaison to ask questions and represent something, said Kath Edsall, treasurer of the School Board.
Powers said the trouble was that groups believed it was the board’s’ role to come to the parent council meetings and support whatever it is they were talking about, but “that was not the case at all.”
Members of numerous parent councils were contacted for comment on communication issues with the board, and no one responded.
Secretary for the school board Hillary Henderson said, “we all have to take care of ourselves so we can better ourselves for this community.”
Kuhnmuench and Powers agreed that the board members’ role as the liaison was to NOT be an advocate for the school’s parent councils.
“It’s important to know that we are responsible for our students and financials from our district,” said Powers.
Currently, without having a liaison, parent councils can receive their information by attending a meeting, calling a board member, or watching the School Board minutes online.
When Kuhnmuench brought up the discussion, she did not expect to reach a decision on this matter at this meeting but she said she would like to reach a final decision within the next month or two and take some formal action.
On the other hand, Erin Graham, trustee and board member, thinks the decision should wait until next fall school year.
The School Board will discuss the issue further at the April 11 School Board meeting, where members of various parent councils will attend and voice their opinion on what they think is best.