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Fractious school board puts day retreat on lesson plan

| Friday, Feb. 2, 2001

Avonworth school board members will go on retreat - not to get away from it all but, rather, to learn how to deal with each other.

After public tiffs on such issues as not holding classes because of construction and limiting board members to five minutes of discussion on an issue, board members decided that they needed to seek counseling.

A retreat on decision-making and group interaction will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 24 at Shannopin Country Club in Ben Avon Heights. Labeled as a seminar, the meeting will not be open to the public.

The reservation for 15 people is under board President Betsy Radcliffe's name.

Radcliffe said the board isn't being charged for the use of a room.

Assistant Superintendent Valerie McDonald said the seminar will focus on how a group can work together as a team. The speakers' fee won't exceed $500, she said.

'It (the retreat) will help us all gain insight into how we can all work together to get this district where it needs to go,' she said.

In addition to the retreat, Avonworth school board members will take a Meyers-Briggs personality test, which will be scored by Meyers-Briggs-trained consultant Jody Sprinkle. The test date will be at a different time and location than the retreat.

Sprinkle said the test costs between $10 and $25 per person. The cost depends on how it is scored. A self-score is the least expensive, but the tests can be sent straight to Meyers-Briggs for evaluation.

'The way I facilitate, using this instrument and using this theory, is so that people understand why they are different. It legitimizes differences,' Sprinkle said. 'The second step is to understand your own strengths and what you bring to the table.'

Sprinkle said the test will not solve the board's problems but will provide insight into why the problems exist.

'Conflicts arise because everybody's coming from a different direction at the same time,' she said. 'You can't work effectively with teams unless you know your own style.'

The Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator is based on the research and theories of Carl Jung, a disciple of Sigmund Freud, the originator of psychoanalysis. The test scores people on four scales - introvert-extrovert; sensate-intuitive; thinking-feeling; and judging-perceiving. The scale breaks people's types into a four-letter code.

Radcliffe said she hopes the retreat will help the board regain its focus.

'I hope it (the retreat) will restore optimal board relations to enable us to be able to come up with the best decisions, to enable the board to focus on the issues instead of each other and to be able to monopolize on each other's strengths.'

One school board member, however, will not fill in the test's bubbles with a No. 2 pencil.

Gary Short said he will not go to the retreat because he does not see a need for it. Short has been involved in raising issues that have led to confrontations on the board.

'I don't think it will be helpful to anyone,' Short said. 'What would be helpful is if each board member keeps an open mind regarding all issues facing the board.'

Mark Berton can be reached at mberton@tribweb.com or (724) 779-7108.

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