CCS Board leadership change; Q&A with Katie Browning, president and Layla Spanenberg, vice president

Ryan Zhang

Katie Browning, CCS Board President

What is your favorite part of being on the Carmel Clay Schools Board?

To learn all about the different things going on in our district. So that’s probably one of my favorite parts. To learn all about the different pieces that make CCS. 

What prompted the change of the CCS Board President?

So every year by law, we have to reorganize. And at that point, a slate of candidates can be presented. It can be the same group of people or it can change, and this year it was our fellow board members who selected me to take that leadership role. But it comes up every year.

How does this position differ from your last one?

My last position I was vice president. (Now as president), I work closely with (Superintendent Michael) Beresford to set the agenda for our meetings. I am the board spokesperson, so I do interviews like this and work with other types of communications. And then a lot of the time it’s working with my fellow board members. So on my last position, (as vice president), I was over the superintendent evaluation and our board evaluations, so I will no longer be doing that one. And I also used to be on the policy committee, and I’m not on that anymore, either.

What is the importance of being the president?

I think the biggest thing is working with my teammates, the fellow board members, and working with Dr. Beresford and his team, making sure that our communication lines are open, that we all have the same information and that we’re able to effectively plan and run our meetings.

Are there any pros and cons of this change? 

I’m a lot busier now, so that’s good and bad, too. I get to be a lot more involved in the planning aspect of things that deal with board work. I also get to work a lot more on the communication side, which I love. Working with our press, working with people like you, communicating more to people in the community, so that I’m looking forward to also a lot too.

Do you have any plans for the future of the board?

I’m really looking forward to 2022 being a very positive year. I’m looking forward to being out in the community a lot more hopefully (if) COVID gives us a chance to do more of that. I think that kind of being more of a face of the CCS board to kind of get out there more, that would be really exciting for me.

How does the board vote on changes?

When we have something on our meeting agenda, a fellow board member can offer what they would call a slate of candidates. We had a board member who, for the change, presented to the other members of the board that they would like to suggest myself as president, Louise Jackson as vice president and Jennifer Nelson-Williams as secretary. And then as a board, we talk on that and then we vote.

How does each person contribute to the CCS Board?

We have lots of different roles. The president (works) with those agenda planning meetings. I also lead the meeting so when we have a meeting on kind of going through the different items that we have. Vice president, their primary role is to work on the evaluation of our superintendent and also to do the evaluation of our board; we do a self evaluation every year. The secretary of the board, she takes minutes, which means kind of a summary of all of our meetings, and works a lot with kind of keeping things orderly and on time making sure we know when our meeting start and she also takes attendance at our meetings. We also have school board members who serve on different areas. We have two school board members who are on the policy committee. We have a school board member who works with our legislators on legislative items. We have a board member who works with the Carmel Parks Department and also someone who does things with the Carmel Redevelopment Commission. So (there are) lots of different things going on and we all work together as a team to make sure they get.

How do you feel about becoming the president?

I’m very excited. (I’m) really anxious to learn more about the different things that I’ll be working with in our school district in kind of being able to serve in this new and different way. I’ve been on the board now over about five years, but this is my first time being president. So I’m kind of excited to take my talents and kind of bring that to this position.

Is there anything I haven’t asked that a reader might like to know?

I think the biggest thing is that there’s definitely a lot of collaboration that happens. We work with Dr. Beresford and we love learning about all the great things that are going on. And we also love to spotlight. We do a lot of spotlights at our board meetings where we will invite different groups of people in. We’ve done things with athletics. We’ve done things with, like TechHOUNDS. We even, a couple meetings ago, had a teacher who actually saved somebody with the Heimlich maneuver and we were able to kind of spotlight them, so we love sharing that good news of CCS.



Layla Spanenberg, CCS Board member and former CCS Board President

What’s your favorite thing about being part of the board?

For me, it’s the relationships that I’ve been able to build with the students and the families and my fellow colleagues, the teachers, my board members, I really have enjoyed meeting and developing relationships as well as advocating for students.

What prompted these changes to the board’s leadership positions?

With any board, I think a sign of a strong board is having a succession plan and for our board, I have been president for several years and I might not always be on the board and it’s really important that we have a succession plan. So what we thought was really in the best interest. This (past) year, I worked alongside (CCS Board vice president) Katie Browning and worked alongside our newest members, and we all work together and we try to mentor one another and it was a good time for a leadership change while everybody is still on the board, we can help support one another in our learning and growth.

What is a succession plan?

There’s always some type of a succession plan. Even in administration, you want to be sure that you’re developing the skill set of your current employees to be able to take on different roles. And you always want to know who else can serve as a president who else can serve as a secretary or vice president. It’s really important that you have developed the skills in everybody, so others can fulfill different roles.

How does your new position differ from the last one that you had?

To be honest with you, it doesn’t differ that much. The responsibility of the president is to work directly with the superintendent to develop the agenda for the board meetings and to act as the spokesperson for the board. That being said, every board member has the same responsibilities to our school system and to the families and students and employees that we serve. My vote counts the same as everybody else’s vote and we all work together. We all have a single vote on any item that is on the agenda when we take action, and it’s not a significant change in responsibilities, except that the board president acts as a spokesperson and the board president is responsible for meeting weekly with the superintendent and developing the agenda for the board meetings.

How does the board vote on changes?

By law and it’s an Indiana statute every Jan. 15, every school board is responsible for reorganizing and we reorganize in a public meeting. (Mike). Kerschner, I believe, made a recommendation for (Katie) Browning, (Louise) Jackson, and (Jennifer) Nelson-Williams, to serve as the president, vice president and secretary. And I think Jennifer then seconded the motion, and the entire board supported that decision. So all voting takes place, any action that we take must take place at a public meeting, and that’s what we did.

How does each person contribute to the board?

Each of us have different roles and responsibilities, but we all have an equal vote. So there’s two different things. We all have a responsibility at our board meetings, and we get the agenda in advance, get all the material, the supporting material, in advance; we do our homework, we do our research and we come prepared to the meeting to take action. All that’s the same for every one of us. Now, there are also additional responsibilities that the board has, and we’ve delegated different people to do it. Like our vice President, the vice President is responsible for coordinating the evaluation of the superintendent. The entire board works on that together, but the vice president takes the lead to ensure that is accomplished and we have that in a bylaw. The executive secretary reviews all the minutes for every board meeting to ensure their accuracy. The president has responsibilities of developing the agenda with the superintendent. (As a member), I have other responsibilities. I serve as the legislative liaison to the Indiana School Board Association. So I go to those meetings. Our board also has a member that serves on the CRC, the Carmel Redevelopment Commission. So we have a board member that serves on that board as well. We have a board member that serves on the Carmel Clay Parks and Recreation Board. So those are all different responsibilities. Each of us have a different responsibility outside of our regular board member responsibility.

Are there any pros or cons with this change?

I think a pro is that everybody has their own leadership style and so Katie Browning will lead with a different style than myself or Mike Kerschner. And I think we are all better when we allow others to have an opportunity to grow and develop their skills and lead, so I think that would be very helpful to our board. It helps with board growth and I think board members have more ownership of their responsibilities as board members when they take on different roles as well. So I see a change is a benefit to our school board. And the other benefit that I don’t think that people really appreciate is that we all work so closely together and if any one of us have a question or a challenge, we rely on one another for support and so having a change when everybody is still there to be supportive, is a great idea. Now, we’ve got three board positions that come up for election this fall. We don’t know what the future holds. But it’s very important that those who are currently on the board are developing their leadership style and their skill set to carry on the great work that the school board does.

How often do these leadership changes occur?

Annually (leadership changes occur) every January. Sometimes, there isn’t a change in leadership. I was fortunate to be selected by our school board to serve as president several consecutive years. That was a really neat opportunity for me. The board has the option to make changes anytime, but by law Indiana statute requires school boards to reorganize, which means identifying who the president, vice president, executive secretary. We have to reorganize by law every Jan. 15.

Does this change mean anything for the future of the board?

I think it just strengthens the board. It gives all of our board members opportunities to explore responsibilities and different roles and I believe that just makes us a stronger board moving forward.