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At UCPS, communication starts at the top

The Professional Advisory Council meets quarterly with the superintendent and cabinet staff to get answers the questions presented by the teachers’ representatives.

It may be a bit unusual in organizations employing more than 5,000 staff members for the employees to have open access to the organization’s top leaders, but in Union County Public Schools, they do.

Teachers in UCPS have ready access to Dr. Mary Ellis, Superintendent, and the members of the superintendent’s cabinet.

“Teachers are part of the backbone of our school system,” Ellis said. “They work directly with our children and are often the most impacted by the decisions the superintendent must make. I spent over 18 years of my career as a teacher and still consider it my greatest calling. I have the utmost respect for our teachers. I want to answer their questions and I want to hear from them. The Professional Advisory Council allows me to do just that.”

The teachers in each school elect a representative to the Professional Advisory Council for a two-year term. School representatives are charged with presenting questions and concerns from the school staff to the superintendent and then sharing information from the superintendent with the school staff.

“The teachers at my school find the Professional Advisory Council to be extremely beneficial,” said Jennifer Bittner, a fourth-grade teacher at Western Union Elementary School. “I feel honored to represent my school and our teachers as their representative.”

The purpose of the Professional Advisory Council is threefold: to serve as a means of communication between all personnel in the schools and the central administrative staff; to promote a better understanding of the functions of the administrators and the faculties; and to make recommendations and/or advise the superintendent.

The Professional Advisory Council meets quarterly with the superintendent who answers the questions presented by the teachers’ representatives. Each member of the superintendent’s cabinet is also present to answer questions from the areas they lead.

Senior Master Sgt. William Reid (USAF-Ret) represents his Parkwood High School colleagues on the Professional Advisory Council. He shared, “Hearing the information directly from the superintendent is great. It was especially helpful last year as we went through the budget process.”

The council conversations span many areas. Questions during the last meeting ranged from child nutrition standards to school calendars to the speed of the network to staff transfer policies.

Dr. John Jones, Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Programs, was asked about curricula with regards to globalization. “What productivity was to the Industrial Age, communication is to the Information Age,” he said. “It is important that we ensure that we are focused on preparing our children for the world they will live.”

The questions presented to the superintendent from the system’s teachers, as well as the answers given, are distributed to the faculty in each school by the school’s representative and are maintained on the Professional Advisory Council’s Moodle site.

The Professional Advisory Council does not make resolutions or decisions, like a school’s elected Site-based Management Team might. Instead, it serves in an advisory capacity to let the superintendent know the "pulse" of the school system from a teacher's perspective.

Written by: Rob Jackson, Community Relations and Communications Liaison
Posted: Dec 03, 2012 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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