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The Spartan

The Student News Site of Thomas B. Doherty High School

The Spartan

The Student News Site of Thomas B. Doherty High School

The Spartan

How our District is Run

What the Board of Education and Superintendent Do
Annika Norman with Superintendent Michael Gaal and school board president Parth Melpakam at Queen Palmer Elementary School

What does the school board do? It’s something that I’ve wondered for a while now. Who’s on it? What decisions do they make? All these questions made me realize that I don’t know much about what a school board is. With election season upon us, I figured what better time to find out. On Monday, September 25th, I met with Parth Melpakam, president of the District 11 School Board, and he set up a day for me to follow him around and ask questions. The day after on September 26th, I was able to shadow him at Queen Palmer Elementary School.

On the way there, I got to ask questions about how our school board is run. Every school board is slightly different. Our school board is comprised of seven people, and the members at the time included Parth Melpakam, Jason Jorgenson, Sandra Banks, Lauren Nelson, Darleen Daniels, Al Loma, and Julie Ott. Each member gets elected and then serves a term of four years. Each member is only able to be elected for two terms and then can no longer run. The board then hires a superintendent. Our superintendent, Michael Gaal has been the District 11 superintendent since the middle of 2022.

One of the district’s new ways to show teacher appreciation is by giving staff members at different schools a free breakfast. They are doing this at every school in the district, while also recognizing teachers who have made a large impact at their schools and in their communities. I went to one of these events and while I was there, I got to see that not only do the board and superintendent get to meet with teachers and administrators, but they also make connections with students. Dr. Melpakam interacted with all of the different members of staff there, and we went into a classroom to talk to some of the students there. He and other members of the board are very involved in different events at many different schools, including our own.

During the event, Superintendent Michael Gaal showed up. I got to meet with him, and near the end of the breakfast, I got to sit and have a discussion with him and Dr. Melpakam about pressing issues around the district and at Doherty. We talked about phone policies, whether or not we should be allowed to use phones at all during the school day, and the changing block schedule. I also arranged a day for me to shadow the superintendent.

The school board during a meeting discussing pressing issues in the district. (Annika Norman)

On Wednesday, September 27th, I attended the school board meeting. Many different people attend these meetings. Staff members such as teachers or principals, students, or just members of the community. These meetings are where items are presented and then voted on by the different members of the board. Community members are also able to bring up issues that they feel should be addressed. The meetings occur every other Wednesday while leaving time off for district breaks.

The school board is responsible for many executive decisions. Some of these decisions are regarding the budget. One example is the new Track and Field here at Doherty. The district decided to give the school around two million dollars for the project. Another example is something like the new stage which also cost around two million dollars.

With the budget this year, the district was able to put money towards fixing the AC systems at multiple schools in the district including the previously talked about Queen Palmer.

Wednesday, October 4th is when I got the chance to follow Mr. Gaal for a day. There was a meeting in the morning between all of the area superintendents along with Gaal. One of the items discussed was the district’s enrollment, while another was about the student Chromebooks. Because I was there, I got to give some input when asked about things like the bathroom situation at Doherty. After the meeting, I went to Sabin Middle School to see Mr. Gaal welcome new teachers.

Because the school board is elected every four years, the election fell this November on the seventh. There were a total of 10 candidates on the ballot which consisted of, Thomas Carey, Mary Coleman, Shay Dabney, Darleen Daniels, Jill Haffely, Jeremiah Johnson, Jason Jorgenson, Parth Melpakam, Rachel Paul, and Kathryn Singh.

The election results are a validation of the overall vision, direction, and priorities adopted by the Board over the past couple of years. The Board and the District look forward to collaboratively working with our community partners in the work of improving student outcomes, prioritizing staff investment, and increasing parent engagement. Students come first in D11 and to that end, the Board will continue to invest our limited resources closest to students in the classrooms.

— Parth Melpakam

Previous school board members Melpakam and Jorgenson won a re-election while first-time winners Carey and Haffley were elected.

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About the Contributor
Annika Norman
Annika Norman, Editor in Chief
I'm a junior here at Doherty and am super excited to be the Editor in Chief this year. I like hockey, writing, photography, and being a CSPD cadet.

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