Board governs school district through servant leadership

In three sentences read aloud at the beginning of its meetings, the CFISD Board of Trustees expresses its roles and function as it relates to the district and its operations.

“As the Cypress-Fairbanks Board of Trustees, we are here to set goals, listen to reports, approve budgets, contracts and personnel appointments, and make policy for the district,” reads the president, which is currently Dr. John Ogletree following the two-year term of fellow trustee Darcy Mingoia. “It is not the role of the board to make day-to-day operational decisions. The management and day-to-day operations of the district are the responsibility of the superintendent.”

But for the seven Board members, all who have lived within the district’s boundaries for at least 20 years and in some cases, have more longstanding ties, their duties as trustees go deeper than just those three sentences.

“We are there to oversee the big picture,” said Christine Hartley, a trustee since 2011. “There are normal things like we can hire the superintendent and those types of things, but I really see it as being a voice for people in our community – they can come to me, I can ask the question maybe that they don’t always get to ask and I can represent them.

“But I also do the opposite where I can share information with the people in the community that might help them understand why the district made a certain decision.”

DSC_5791The current Board of Trustees includes, from left, Debbie Blackshear, Tom Jackson, Hartley, Dr. Ogletree, Bob Covey, Don Ryan and Mingoia.

To be eligible to serve on the Board of Trustees, candidates must be a U.S. citizen at least 18 years old and be a registered voter who resides within CFISD for at least six months prior to the regular filing deadline.

Members of the seven-member Board serve three-year terms, with elections held annually. The terms of approximately one-third of Board members expire each year. Members serve without compensation, though travel for Board business may be reimbursed.

Trustees attend orientation and receive training and continuing education, as well as also participating in team-building sessions.

The Board of Trustees has final authority to determine and interpret policies that govern the schools and district, doing so only by a majority vote of members present at a committee-of-the-whole meeting, which are held every month from August through June.

But there are numerous other occasions where CFISD students and community members will see trustees, who pride themselves on being representatives of the district and being out at events and functions. Members routinely visit campuses and attend district events ranging from athletic contests to graduations to musical and theatrical performances.

“And we don’t have to do that – we’re not required to do that and I don’t know of very many school boards that do the campus visits like we do,” Hartley said. “That’s just something that we wanted to do to get to know each school and let them see that we care and we’re invested in them.”

Ryan, a trustee for 17 years, credits the board’s at-large model in helping public education be the great equalizer for students. And while every board has deep ties to CFISD, Ryan and Hartley are both graduates of CFISD, making their service even more personal.

“It may sound cheesy but I take it personal to protect the legacy and tradition of Cy-Fair ISD,” Ryan said. “We’ve had people who served who had no desire to protect the students or protect the tradition that we have here in Cy-Fair ISD. That infuriated me.

“I’ll continue to serve as long as we continue to do what’s best for every student in the district.”