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Janesville School Board considers 'strategic alliances'

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Frank Schultz
January 28, 2013

— A new Janesville School Board policy apparently will include a provision that requires board approval for something called "strategic alliances."

The policy was introduced Jan. 8. The original version apparently would have let the superintendent enter into these agreements without a board vote.

Board member Peter Severson raised questions, and the result is a revision that could be approved Tuesday. The new language requires board approval.

The old version said: "Administration will seek input on prospective alliances whenever possible before entering into those alliances."

The new version says: "Administration will inform the board on the consent agenda of prospective strategic alliances before entering into those alliances and will not enter into strategic alliances if the board so directs."

Both versions say: "In creating and approving strategic alliances, administration will continuously assure that the public's role in reviewing the budgeting process will not be impeded."

Severson said he wanted to make sure any alliances are noted on an agenda and approved by the board so that the public knows what is happening. He is satisfied the new language does that.

Severson said he doesn't know why the administration proposed the policy, but it appears Superintendent Karen Schulte's first use of it is for alliances with educational institutions in China.

Schulte has said a strategic alliance would go beyond the partnerships that the district already has with, for example, local businesses, but it's not clear what makes an alliance different from a partnership.

"I think as we go forward with these kinds of things, I think we need to better define what a strategic alliance is," Severson said.

The two-page policy appears to promote strategic alliances that enhance educational opportunities for district students and/or district finances. The policy says a strategic alliance "brings a benefit to the district and/or the students in the district and which may or may not result in a contractual relationship."

The alliance could be with donors; businesses; community leaders; or local, state, national, or international governmental entities, including businesses, organizations and schools and colleges.

Schulte mentioned such alliances in her blog last week, saying she looked abroad to seek new revenue streams by bringing in foreign students.

"All of these goals can be realized in part through working with China and other countries outside of the United States," Schulte wrote.

Schulte signed three memos of understanding with two Chinese colleges and a primary school this month during her trip to China. She wrote that she hopes the agreements "develop into strategic alliances."

Teacher and student exchanges with the Chinese schools are in the works this year. Eventually, Schulte wants to bring tuition-paying high school students to Janesville.



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