Here is my summary of the June 11th Board Meeting. Note I do not intend to rehash what I wrote previously in preparation for the meeting.
I arrived right around 5:30 because I wanted to witness what usually happens having never seen it before (and this part of the meeting is never recorded on the DVD I receive). It was pretty much as I expected; Sue Grey called the meeting and then there was a motion and a second to go into “Executive Session” (which is closed) following the OMA rules for a closed session but citing every single possible reason for a closed session. This seems to be the very standard practice, and the basic list of exceptions is read (summarizing 5 ILCS 120/2c) before every single closed session that I know of. For the most part, this section is as dry as a doornail.
Close to 6:pm, all the Board Members filed back in and Board President Sue Grey initiated a moment of silence in respect for Gene Logas. We then kicked into high gear going into Public Comment. Karen Roese shared on discipline, behavior and bullying issues (I’ll let her spell that out a bit more if she desires – she could even provide her document *grin*). I got up and thanked the Board and the Administration for all their hard work, work made that much more difficult and weighty with the passing of Gene Logas. I also asked the Board to consider improvements to the way RFPs and Bids are reported on the website, perhaps allowing them to remain online for a much longer duration, and for supporting documentation to be supplied as well. I capped it off by saying that we taxpayers would like to see the fruit of Gene’s hard work; he was very meticulous and passionate about finances, which the public has very little exposure to. And that is more of a systemic issue, not a personal issue, I think. Finally, Doretha Simmons gave a very nice tribute to Gene Logas and shared several anecdotal stories. Very well done.
Next up was Maria Alanis with a proposed waiver of some sort. The sad part is that even with the documentation on BoardDocs and with Ms. Alanis’s own presentation, the gist of the proposal was entirely lost on me. It was not until Board Member Chalifoux asked some clarifying questions that I began to understand what exactly was being asked. Board Member Tomlinson made an argument that Veteran’s Day should also not be included in the waiver, and it was motioned (and seconded) that the amended proposal be carried – to allow a permanent waiver of using 3 of the original 5 holidays (Columbus Day, Lincoln’s BDay and Casimir Pulaski Day) for the purposes of holding school or other instructional uses. At least that is what I think they finally agreed on.
Next was a UofI Master student (Lisa De La Rue) who had Skyped in from California. The audio segment was rather flaky which was unfortunate. She shared her findings on a literature review for school configurations (again, no surprises if you read her documents found on BoardDocs); transitional times are difficult, especially for low-income students; she suggested a “sweat spot” (my words) of 600-900 students in a given building; most importantly, school climate is typically one of the largest factors that affect academic performance.
Holly Nelson was then invited to share her findings. She had previously shared on the Social impacts of the various high school locations under review – last night she shared the Financial and Economic impacts. In my opinion, she has done a very good job of making her work quite accessibly, both in terms of being available online and in print in many formats, but also in terms of being aesthetic, easy to read and available in bite-sized chunks. One thing that struck me was her emphasis on “enhancing public discussion”. I can see she is very concerned about feedback and discourse via her blog, but I do not seem much of that happening. Instead we focus on the details. In her presentation, she has several quotes, along with goals along the lines of “making community stronger” and “let’s keep talking”. I very much hope we do so. What will it take?
1.5 hours later, we finally get to the Action Agenda – New Business. Margie Jobe talked about 3 new positions, I believe. It was hard for me to follow, especially since there was no supporting documentation. We then heard about buying a ton of new Dell computers “to replace old computers”, and a new bid for several buses, some to replace “old” buses, some to augment the existing fleet. If I recall correctly, not much was discussed. I’ll have to review the recording when I get it (DVD request is currently outstanding). Still concerned about all these replacements. Trevor was not available to talk about Bottenfield becoming a Title I school. Barbara Ramsay talked about safe routes and won unanimous support. We then heard about some sort of abatement – I did not understand what it was about (again, no supporting documentation, didn’t see it on the printed out agenda). It seemed like we completely skipped the sections dealing with prevailing wages, transfer of money from Working cash and transfer from Capital Project Fund, and the Career center update. (did I black out or something?) Sue Grey was very excited to hear about a new ability for parents to use an online method of monitoring and paying for meals (even the cynical side of me is having a hard time coming up with downsides). And finally a change to the existing policy for food services was discussed – basically, capping “charges” to $20 per student. This last also confused me a bit. Arlene Blank stated that this would not affect students on Free/Reduced lunch plans. Board Member Brown clarified and asked how that would work for those on reduced cost lunch plans (since Free is obviously never going to hit $20). Essentially, the wording is quite misleading – the policy would indeed be in effect for reduced-cost lunch plans, they just get to more days before they get capped. And then what happens when they reach the cap? Right now the district doles out measly cheese sandwiches and milk. Are they going to start saying “sorry kid, you hit your quota”? This policy discussion was tabled for “June 21st”. I was just waiting for them to announce the Board Retreat, but alas, they did not. 🙂
And then Consent Agenda. Somehow I had completely forgotten that Consent Agenda items were “discussed” last month, and that the Board does one massive vote for the entire enchilada. When talking with Karen afterwards, we both reflected that this part was very confusing. Those of us who are not used to Board Meeting proceedings (and perhaps Robert’s Rules) did not find this intuitive nor clear to follow in any sense. I felt like a total n00b. Swiftly on the tails of the Consent Agenda vote, another motion and second and unanimous rollcall was ordered up for Executive Session. You can tell they are all very much used to doing things this way, moving along like a well-oiled machine. 🙂
I stuck around and talked with a few audience members afterwards. For grins (grimaces?) I stayed until the Board came back out of Executive Session. They had one personnel issue to vote on – I could not make out what they were saying at all and had to ask for help. And then the end of meeting. Period.
I see on the printed Agenda that the next regular board meeting is July 9th. Still wondering why the Board Retreat is not announced. Oversight?