With the Indianapolis Public Schools Board of School
Commissioners in the midst of a search for their newest member (read details
about that search process here),
we approached Board Administrator Zach Mulholland to give us a behind-the-scenes
look at what the Board does, how they work with the Superintendent and how he
as Board Administrator supports them. He was happy to answer these questions
for us.

What is the work/role
of a board commissioner like on a daily/weekly basis? What is their work like?

The
Board of School Commissioners of IPS is the governing body for the school
corporation. It is their job to oversee the district’s operations by establishing
policies and guiding the administration on creating and implementing procedures
to provide an effective system of public education for all students and
families that reside in the district.

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As elected officers, the adopted policies of the school board
are legislative acts that communicate the vision for the district and establish
the rules by which the district will pursue its goals. The board also has the
primary responsibility for hiring and supervising the work of the
Superintendent. While it is the job of the board to establish the long-term
vision for the district and to explicitly outline the expectations and outcomes
for the Superintendent, the Board generally does not engage in the day-to-day
management of the district or determine the exact means for pursuing the broad
goals and expectations it sets. Each commissioner is tasked with getting
frequent updates on the progress of the district towards established goals and
providing direction to the Superintendent in the execution of the board’s
vision.

What is not commonly
understood about their work, something most people don’t realize or see?

The relationship between the Board and the Superintendent is
often misunderstood. Although, the board is collectively the governing body for
the school corporation, much of their efforts are focused on establishing
long-term goals and expectations and monitoring progress towards these outcomes.
Much of the day-to-day operation of district is performed by the Superintendent
and district staff. While the board ultimately approves budgets, personnel
decisions, and executes contracts on behalf of the district, these activities
often occur in coordination with the Superintendent’s recommendation and input.
As the body responsible for hiring and reviewing the work of the
Superintendent, much of the board’s responsibility comes down to ensuring that
the decisions and actions of the Superintendent are consistent with the
authority and constraints established by the board in the execution of the
duties assigned to the Superintendent.

What’s entailed in
your role? What do you do in support of the board?

As Board Administrator, I facilitate the board’s work by
serving as a liaison to the administration, ensuring the board has all the
information necessary to fulfill their responsibilities, and making sure that
the board’s actions are in compliance with all relevant statutes and laws. In
addition to helping the board adopt resolutions and draft policy, I support all
of the board’s activities related to the their roles – this means scheduling
meetings, facilitating communications, providing training and professional
development opportunities, and managing the board’s budget. In a nutshell, my
job is to make sure that everything the board touches is consistent with all
legal requirements and that each board member has the information and support
necessary to effectively execute their duties. It can be hectic and stressful,
but it is incredibly rewarding to work with a group of seven intelligent
individuals who are committed to making Indianapolis Public Schools the
standard for quality urban education.

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