A reader asked me to elaborate a little on how the Consent Agenda is formed, so here is a response for those not familiar with the process. One big huge caveat – I am using information gleaned from previous board members, so it is entirely possible this process has changed.
First and foremost, we have the Board Policies which dictate how all this stuff happens:
270.17 BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETINGS – Board Meeting Procedure
The Board President is responsible for focusing the Board meeting agendas on appropriate content. The Superintendent shall prepare agendas in consultation with the Board President. The President shall designate a portion of the agenda as a consent agenda for those items that usually do not require discussion or explanation before Board action. Any Board member may request the withdrawal of any item under the consent agenda for independent consideration.
Items submitted by Board members to the Superintendent or the President shall be placed on the agenda. District residents may suggest inclusions for the agenda. Items not specifically on the agenda may still be discussed during the meeting.
The Superintendent shall provide a copy of the agenda, with adequate data and background information, to each Board member at least 48 hours before each meeting, except a meeting held in the event of an emergency. The meeting agenda shall be posted in accordance with Board policy 270.01, Types of Board Meetings.
The Board President shall determine the order of business at regular School Board meetings. Upon consent of a majority of members present, the order of business at any meeting may be changed.
It is my understanding that usually the Superintendent and the Board President sit down (either in person or email) and talk about agenda items early in the week. During this time also Board Members typically submit questions (I think they have up until Wednesday if they want a response by Friday). It is the Board President’s discretion which line-items appear under the “Action Agenda” versus which ones go to the “Consent Agenda”. As stated in the Policy, Consent Agenda items are typically things that have already been discussed and exposed as an Information or Action item in a previous Board Meeting. Sometimes the Consent Agenda will contain items that look mundane or trivial day-to-day stuff and it makes sense that they do not require discussion. On at least one occasion that I can personally remember, a board member has moved to alter a line-item from the Consent to the Action agenda during the course of a board meeting. After the Agenda is set, Tammy Sowers prepares, by Friday, a “board packet” (a comprehensive stack of information, previously all printed out in thick folders), generates the PDF version of the Agenda and posts it all on boarddocs. The public only gets to see a subset of the information posted. In accordance with the Open Meetings Act (OMA), the agenda is posted 24 non-weekend hours prior to the meeting.
Just to make it clear, a “Consent Agenda” is one by which the board votes for the entire block en masse. In all other agendas, the board hears, discusses and votes on each item line by line.