Houlihans: pushing forward with policy change and conversational meetings

I have heard back and we might have some traction with a couple board members. I think we have to find a way to kind of compromise and it has been suggested to perhaps make the “conversational meetings” an expectation; we can still put this in the Policy Handbook/manual (like Urbana did with their infamous Policy 2:82).


The next Regular Board meeting is August 13th. I want to push forward and get something on the agenda so I am hoping that at today’s Houlihan’s gathering we can identify any roadblocks and explore the legal ramifications (ie, what do existing policies say about Board Members initiating changes, how involved can the public be, etc). I did a trivial amount of checking already, but I confess I have not done as much as I intended. I hope to remedy that this week.


Of course, if you have a bee in your bonnet on a different issue, let me know. 🙂 School is right around the corner (already started for “balanced calendar” schools).

10 Responses to “Houlihans: pushing forward with policy change and conversational meetings”

  1. charlesdschultz Says:

    I had some time to myself before a visitor showed up (“hi Vav”) and hashed out a number of things. First off, here is my new draft (incorporating another suggestion from Vav, and also some comments from a previous post):

    Draft IV : Alteration to existing Board Policy 270.01 “Types of Board Meetings”
    Conversational Meetings

    Conversational community meetings will primarily focus on informal public interactions with the shareholders; the idea is to allow a free-form (eg, free from Robert’s Rules) dialog between the elected board and those that elected them.

    The Board of Education shall hold regular conversational community meetings at times and locations that are convenient and conducive to public participation, designated on a calendar adopted at the start of each academic year. Additional meetings shall be added at the request of two or more board members or the received petition of ten local residents by the superintendent or designee. The Board will make best effort to hold no fewer than four such meetings.

    Possible topics for community input shall be included in all no-cost announcements (and all others as is affordable) as well as at the district administrative office at least 48 hours before such a meeting is held. Such topics are meant as prompts for the public and other topics shall be welcomed. This does not restrict the community from raising any topic they wish that the Board can talk about under the Open Meeting Act (OMA). The Board shall set only one item on the agenda for conversational meetings (public comment), and there will be no action taken by the board.

    An official note-taker shall be chosen by the Board, and those notes shall be posted on the District’s website within the week with no need for approval (as opposed to Regular Board Meeting minutes, which do require approval). The basis of these notes shall summarize each issue brought before the board and any possible deliberation/clarification and all follow-up items. The purpose of posting these notes on the District website is to broadcast the discussion and allow for future conversations within the community.

    My intent is to use Policy 270.17 (how a resident in the district can request an agenda item via the Superintendent) to request a change to Policy 270.01. I have also been talking to board members, and it is possible that a board member will utilize Policy 275.01 (by which any board member can submit written proposals for policy “consideration”) to introduce something akin to the draft above.

    By the way, I am not terribly happy with Policy 275.01; especially the part that says the Superintendent (or his/her designee) is responsible for rewriting the proposal “into acceptable written form”. I don’t want a friggin’ transcription into Legalese – I want to keep this as simple as possible. However, on the very extreme edge of possibilities, what if the Superintendent were to designate a sponsoring board member? Not very likely, but the wording of the policy seems to leave that open as a possibility.

    Another issue with Policy 275.01 is that it references State Code 10-20.5, which starts out really generic and might be somewhat related, but the supporting sections (5a and 5b) have absolutely nothing to do with board policy development. Typo?

    Pattsi has mentioned inclusion of the PTA/Council. I don’t exactly know the best way to write that into the policy itself, but I definitely intend to include that in my request for the agenda item, and I’ll mention it during Public Comment on August 13th. The Board already has a Panel at the PTA Council Celebration for Principals, and I am asking the Council how they feel about opening up just the panel portion to the public. I am also asking if the Council would be willing to do another board panel in the Spring. This would take care of two opportunities for the board to hold these conversational meetings, in my opinion.


  2. charlesdschultz Says:

    Chuck Jackson says (having trouble adding a comment):

    I think the note taker paragraph needs more specificity so here is one possible rewrite:

    An official note-taker shall be chosen by the Board. The note-taker shall takes notes of the discussion. All notes shall be prominently posted on the District’s website within a week with no need for official approval.

    In addition to notes of the discussion, in the final write up the note taker shall summarize each issue brought before the board. If so requested in the meeting, the note taker will include any contact information for individuals or groups speaking on a topic. Board responses are a crucial component to this exercise and so shall be included. Any specific action steps (including a timeline and individual responsible for the action) shall be highlighted in the notes.

    The purpose of writing up and posting these notes on the District website is to broadcast the discussion and allow for future conversations within the community.

    Given the conversational nature of these meetings, it shall be understood by the community that individual members do not speak for the board and are free to change their thinking as they wrestle with any particular issue. Active engagement does not equate to promises. To have open dialog, there must be freedom. In a similar way, members of the BOE shall do their best not to undermine trust by using such meetings for disinformation or other secretive purposes. Both the community and the board need to approach communication honestly.

  3. pattsi Says:

    The draft policy certainly has evolved. Policy 275.01 might not be too troublesome if the intent is to have a policy reviewed by the school’s attorney. This is sometimes done for the CB. but not always when we pass a resolution or ordinance. But if the purpose is to rewrite to fit the goals of the superintendent, this does raise a red flag.

    You have no mechanism that covers whether this new policy is effective.

    You still have it structured that the public must come to the board and not the board to the public. How many from the north end will be attending the principals’ award program and thus the panel. This structure is for the board convenience, not the public.

    A couple of thoughts on Chuck’s suggested rewrite. A “best practice” when urban planners write land use policy is to use the concept of sidebars. Sidebars are used for explaining the intent of various parts of the policy, which ought not be part of the policyn leaving little to interpretation. This is a very nice mechanism because those who authored and approved policy move on and the “new kids on the block” will have information about intent.

    Chuck’s suggest blurs policy and intent. Maybe the above mentioned format might help separate what he would like to accomplish.

  4. charlesdschultz Says:

    Pattsi, what does a sidebar look like in real life? Is it obvious that a policy has a sidebar attached to it so those new kids on the block can easily find it? I really like this concept, I am just trying to figure out how to make it work in the context of the U4 Board Policies.

    I’ll work on another draft that makes the issue of reaching out, instead of pulling in, more explicit. I also need to chew on how to create the expectation that board members will (essentially) experiment with this idea to make it work, instead of giving it a go and then giving up (like what has happened many times previously). It seems to me that policy, as a tool of governing, should dictate a destination, not necessarily the road by which that destination is arrived at. Afterall, I am personally not yet aware of any policy or law with a built-in mechanism for self-assessment. 🙂

  5. pattsi Says:

    One of the best visuals as how to present policy, graphics, sidebars, etc. is this document, even though it is about land use. Thumb through the whole document and simply steal the ideas.

    Click to access Final%20Land%20Use%20Plan%20PDF%209-12-11.pdf

    This was produced by a colleague at U of Wisconsin, Department of Urban and Regional Planning plus his students working with the county.
    The following is an example of how to engage the public in a process.

    Let me know if you need more.

  6. charlesdschultz Says:

    email sent to Dr. Wiegand and the Board:

    Good afternoon, Dr. Wiegand and members of the U4 Board,

    I first wanted to express my sincere thanks for all the hard work each of you do. I know you have been up to your eyeballs in figuring out finances, bringing in new staff, getting Balanced Calendar Schools going on their first weeks and getting ready for all the other schools to start. You have a ton of stuff on your collective plate, and even more I do not know about. Thank you for your many many hours of relentless, patient, steadfast commitment to the people of our fine school district.

    I have been chewing on issues of getting the public even more engaged than they already are, of complimenting and sharing your heavy workload and basically driving towards a tighter collaboration. It is with that mindset that I present two requests, and I think these things will help the District move closer to building bridges with the community overall. I could be wrong.

    Request 1 – Choice RFP
    On July 24th I asked a couple questions about the status of the Choice RFP. It is possible that a response was sent and I never received it, and if that is the case, I very much apologize. It is my understanding that one (and only one) entity submitted a response to the RFP, and as such I have suggested to Dr. Wiegand that the RFP as it stands be withdrawn and rewritten to reach a wider audience, specifically to better attract local companies. The reason I focus on the RFP and the Choice program (aka, School Assignment) is that this program, a relic of the Consent Decree, gives rise to a strong negative perception that the local media quickly perpetuates. As we all know, the essential elements of our current School Assignment program do indeed get the job done – our schools have a very diverse array of socio-economic students. Which is why Trevor was able to push for Title I status for Bottenfield. It is the perception of the program that lacks favor. I believe.

    Request 2 – Formal request for a line-item on the August 13th Regular Board Meeting agenda
    According to Board Policy 270.17, “[d]istrict residents may suggest inclusions for the agenda.” I hereby suggest an inclusion for discussing a possible change to Board Policy 270.01 (“Types of Board Meetings”). Board Policy 275.01 (“Board Policy Development”) indicates that I cannot suggest a change to policy directly, so I am suggesting the discussion for a change. 🙂 In the past couple of weeks, I have attempted to talk to each board member about Wheaton’s “Conversational Meetings”, and I have received some most excellent feedback. Several board members have cited previous examples of attempts to engage the community, some more successful than others. I have also been made aware of the extreme busyness of both the District Administration and the Board. I have learned that all board members have a very real and very sincere desire to build relationships with community members, and most (if not all) are actively doing that in various ways. My focus is on “the things have always been done”, on the practices that have been handed down from previous administrations and boards – I see a need to augment and supplement those practices in an effort to accelerate the bridge-building exercises. Perhaps the challenge now is to review what has not worked in the past and figure out how to make it work going forward. I am not suggesting that some kind of public-comment-only agenda is the silver bullet, but I bring it forward as a possible something to try out. If that does not work, how can it be changed to make it work? Please note that I am not intentionally trying to hide anything – it is my intent to be very open about my ambitions, but also to exert my energy in a cooperative (opposed to disharmonious) fashion. If I fail to do that, I very much invite correction.

    As always, I offer whatever help I can afford to bring to the table at your disposal.

    Humbly and respectfully,

  7. charlesdschultz Says:

    Dr. Wiegand’s response:

    Regarding the Choice RFP, I will be bringing forward to the BOE a request for a one year extension of the contract with Alves. My experience, although limited with RFP’s, indicates that we do use legal assistance when writing them. I realize that the legal language may have stopped other vendors from submitting a proposal but I don’t see a way around that. I do think that during this year as we conduct an evaluation of the School Assignment Plan that the programming and services provided by Alves will be made more transparent and hopefully encourage other vendors to submit proposals when the RFP is issued again in the Spring.

    I am working on draft language at the request of a Board member that would mirror language similar to the policy in Wheaton. I hope to have that brought forward for a first read at the end of August.

    In a follow-up email, Dr. Wiegand seems open to accepting community input and I forwarded the draft I have above (with an extension to the last sentence of the first paragraph to go out and meet diverse sections of the community like PTAs, libraries, community centers, etc).

  8. No Houlihans tomorrow « A citizen’s blog about Champaign Unit 4 Says:

    […] I will be meeting with Dr. Wiegand later in the afternoon to go over my proposed draft of the change to Board Policy. Any last words of input? ShareShareEmail Pin It Posted in Community. Tags: board meeting, […]

  9. Next Board Meeting (Monday, August 13th) « A citizen’s blog about Champaign Unit 4 Says:

    […] must confess, when the agenda was posted on BoardDocs, I skimmed through it looking for an agenda item to change policy 270.01. Alas, there is no agenda item for that. What is even more strange is that the a very full list of […]

  10. Who to vote for on April 9th | Citizen4: A citizen's blog about Champaign Unit 4 Says:

    […] hugely in favor of. Chuck helped me out with pitching a proposed change to Board Policy to include Conversational Meetings last year. He has a bit of good experience and rapport with teachers and a true desire to see all […]

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