What is the ‘Consent Agenda’?

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.

Educational Philosophy

I wonder what would happen if school board policies were mandatory reading for taxpayers? My first hope is that a massive revolt would force an entire rewrite to get rid of the crap and transcribe it to something we can all easily understand. My second hope would be that we stop arguing over the small stuff and focus, as a larger community, on the bigger stuff. Until that day happens….


Just highlighting a little gem I think we all often forget. Be careful to note the details to which the policy attempts to embrace the students, the staff, the teachers, the parents and the community; note the need for collaboration at many different levels, both within and without the schools; note that which you think is totally awesome and that which you think we are failing at:



The Board of Education of Champaign Community Unit School District No. 4, as legal officials of the state of Illinois and duly elected by the people of the District, feel obligated to the students of the District to see that their educational needs are met in the best possible manner. The Board, the administration, and the staff of the District will exhibit leadership in all endeavors toward the improvement of our educational program and facilities.
The Board of Education believes that the educational program should provide each student with the opportunity to develop to his/her fullest capacity in the areas of academic, physical, and emotional needs, regardless of race, sex, handicapping condition, socioeconomic status, or academic aptitude.
The Board of Education endorses the following goal statements for the District:

1. To develop an educational program that provides as solid a foundation of both academic and career knowledge and skills as the abilities of each individual will permit, which aims toward the development of each student’s potential with respect to college admission or vocational competence, and unmistakably reflects sincere concern for the human qualities of the individual;

2. To establish a physically, socially, emotionally, and intellectually healthy environment for teaching and learning;

3. To effectively communicate and have a mutual understanding among staff, students, parents, and community so that all may work in concert to achieve an outstanding educational program;

4. To make appropriate recognition of and efficient use of community resources;

5. To continue efforts to recruit and retain a highly skilled and committed staff and to promote the professional growth of this staff;

6. To provide a sound, long-range plan designed to meet future needs;

7. To make the best use of the District’s physical plant;

8. To advise and inform the public of district activities and seek their advice;

9. To provide the highest moral and professional leadership; and

10. To maintain priorities consistent with the educational goals and philosophy of the District.
Approved July 11, 1988

Nov 26th Special Board Meeting agenda has been posted

Even though it is not up in BoardDocs yet (and hence no additional documentation), the Nov 26 special board meeting has been posted on the Board’s Unit 4 page:



The highlights seem to be:

Next Board Meeting (Monday, August 13th)

[updated 13-Aug: Moved WCBs to the top]

Working Cash Bonds will be discussed tonight. Keep in mind this is a 20-year loan (I believe). From BoardDocs:

In February, 2012, the Board approved the Resolution indicating their intent to issue Working Cash Bonds in an amount not to exceed $14,500,000.  The purpose of the Bonds was to provide money to undertake certain construction projects including HVAC, energy efficiency, technology upgrades and a transportation facility.  Administration is now seeking Board approval to issue approximately $9,800,000 in Working Cash Fund Bonds. […] It has been estimated by Stifel Nicolaus that the tax increase on a $150,000 home will be a 5¢ increase for 20 years ($22.50/per year).

I 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 future meetings (at the bottom of the agenda) does not list any special meetings in August; I believe Dr. Wiegand indicated to me that there would be one on the 20th (budget stuff) and one on the 27th (possible first reading of policy 270.01 draft, possible high school options presentation, and something else).

So what is on the agenda?

Aside from the Academic Spotlight, Recognitions and Upcoming Events, the first thing on the “New Business” section is a report on Mentoring and Volunteers from Lauren Smith. Looks like last year was very positive in this sense. As a member of 1-to-1 Mentoring, the numbers are “feel good”, but I also very much want to see Orlando Thomas’s statement of acquiring 100 new mentors this coming year err on the side of being too conservative. With all the churches and volunteer organizations/efforts in our town, 100 new mentors should be easy-peasy! And I personally see mentors and volunteers as such a huge positive for our school district.

The next item is a proposal to change the legal limit at which purchases and bids must go through the RFP process – Administration wants to raise the limit from $10,000 to $25,000. As a taxpayer, I would be able to support this %100 if (and only if) I felt I could keep the district accountable and felt confident with the level of fiscal transparency, and more important, proactive reporting. The district has dipped their toes into the transparency waters by putting check registers and initial RFPs online, and I am thankful for that. I personally think there is still a little more work to be done before the level of trust between the district and the voting public is at a sufficient level where these kinds of caps become arbitrary. But hey, maybe only a small handful of us feel that way. Rather makes me wonder if many other folks even care. 🙂

The third item (C) is a presentation by Orlando Thomas on the topic of High School Climate. The short line-item description perhaps does not do justice to the entire presentation. I’ll Read the rest of this entry »

No Houlihans tomorrow

Both Chuck Jackson and I will be unavailable tomorrow (Aug 8th) for our Wednesday get-together.


However, 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?

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).

Crowdsourcing a draft for a new Board Policy

I am trying an experiment where I invite readers to help me craft a new policy for the Board. Please keep in mind there is a lot of unspoken depth to that first sentence; for instance, we community members cannot write policy. There are other issues as well. My point is to see what would happen if community members wanted a specific policy, and the process involved in getting to the Board and having the Board Members sponsor it and enact it. To that end, I have already started talking to Board Members because I am serious about seeing if we can get an agenda item on this topic for the August 9th Board Meeting. My goal, one way or another, is to change Board policy. I may fail, but from my point of view, this is a learning experience all around and thus worthwhile no matter what.


I am going to list a few iterations that Chuck Jackson and I have already discussed as a possible draft policy (using the Wheaton example as a starting point). We are opening it up for comment, suggestions and alternatives. My one rule is that if you don’t like something, please state what it is and suggest something else to replace it. To frame what we are doing, we are trying to keep it in simple language (as little Legalese as possible) with enough embedded description that future readers (future Board Members?) don’t have to guess at where we were going.


Draft I Read the rest of this entry »

Stuff: board meeting video, Houlihans, community interaction

I. For starters, the July 9th Board meeting video is now available (right-click and “save” if your browser cannot play the video):


II. Houlihans: I plan to be there tomorrow, anyone else? I have a meeting at 10:am with Dr. Wiegand and can report on that, talk about the Board Meeting, or my new plan to introduce new Board Policy that aims to increase interactions with the public (cue “taking over the world”). Which is an excellent segue into ….

III. Community interaction

Kathy Wallig wrote a guest commentary for the News-Gazette on Sunday, July 8th entitled “Urbana school board needs to repeal Board Policy 2:82” (unfortunately, not online). Ms. Wallig does an excellent job of painting the picture on a large canvas to help us understand what is really going on. She uses the example of Jed Bartlett and quotes the line “that’s where all the governing that really matters to anybody really happens” in the context of school boards. Ms. Wallig goes on to point out the many problems of Policy 2:82, but more importantly Read the rest of this entry »

The Purpose of the School Board

This post started out as a deeper review and research of the recent Urbana School Board Policy 2:82 that got Jim Dey’s and Jim Turpin’s attention. But as I dug, I started asking bigger questions. Questions about the purpose of the school board and political engagement. But let me start from the beginning…

A few days ago, NG Editor Jim Dey wrote an editorial that stung the Urbana School District Board of Education and I started exploring his article in a post. Over lunch today, I took some time to dive into this whole thing with both feet.

First I contacted USD 116; I emailed the Board, Superintended Dr. Preston Williams and Assistant Superintendent Don Owen (and various administrative aides), asking where Policy 2:82 was published on the USD website. I must have missed it the first time looking through the Board Agenda, but the policy is indeed on the Board’s Agenda website:


As I was reading through it, I tried to ignore Dey’s perspective and form my own (which is rather difficult, actually). In reading through it, I can definitely see a sense of control being exerted. Control, in and of itself, is not inherently bad; I say that explicitly because even though it is obvious, we seem to want to escalate any desire for control into the realms of “bad” and “evil”. Certainly it can be used for bad. Is it? Also, I had to remember that these are expectations – when I read this, I did not see any ramifications stated if expectations are not met. Some call that kind of thinking devious, others call it thinking outside the box. (*evil grin*)

I also Read the rest of this entry »