Wednesday, December 16, 2009

BOE DIALOGUE

I have received this long thoughtful comment to yesterday's blog, and rather than discussing the status of the Senate's Health Care Reform deliberations decided to print most of that "document" with my replies. His comments are in italics without quotation marks.
Old Doc,
I take it from your comments on this post that you do not attend many Board of Education meetings nor do you have much understanding of how a Board of Education functions.

4:49pm, You are very perceptive. The last board meeting I attended was over a decade ago. They lasted too long then and were filled with too much extraneous material. Tuesday nights meeting's agenda is 47 pages long. On the last page the final item is for approval on 2nd reading of 21 policies listed by title only and I presume to be approved by one batch vote.

Boards of Education, regardless of their location and regardless of whether they are elected or appointed operate under the same rules and laws set forth by the State of New Jersey. Boards of Education function differently from the City Council. Ethics Rules preclude individual members from speaking out about school issues. Only the president of the Board is authorized to speak on behalf of the Board.

It is true that every organized body can establish it own rules of order and procedures subject only to legal requirements. Most organizations adopt either Roger's or Sturgis rules of order and act accordingly but they may adopt their own. I am not familiar with the impact of the State Board of Education on local board function and how it restrict functions.

I do find the practice of taking a group of batched actions and vote on them as one single action strange. Especially when various members of the board will vote "Yea with the exception of #xyz". In the past there have been exceptions noted for different items in the batch by other members of the board. I can not see why an separate vote on all the different items should not be required since there can be "NO" votes on some. How is it reported in the minutes?

For the Dec. 15 minutes the 11 policy changes should be important, yet there is no explanation on the agenda what they are. The public has no way of knowing what is being voted upon nor the ability to question. This is not consistent with OPMA. Sure before the actual business portion of the meeting starts the Public has an individual 3 minutes for general comments. The contents of any policy change should be readily and easily available.
The opportunity for individual Board members to speak out on issues is at official public meetings of the Board of Education. Also, the discussion of confidential personnel matters is considered unethical, illegal and strictly forbidden. Therefore, calls for Board members to speak out publicly about the two employees that are the focus of the current controversy are completely inappropriate since they are asking Board members to break the law in order to quench the thirst for dirt that prevails amongst some members of the community.

That is as it should be. However, when the spokesperson for the board is publicly giving a biased report, I feel that it is the fiduciary duty of any member of that board to publicly express a non-biased opinion. If the spokesperson has broken confidentiality than none of the members remain bound.

I come to the conclusion that you do not know much about the operations of the Board of Education (See my remarks above) because you suggest that maybe each subject area should have one Board member assigned to it to look it over and report it to the rest of the Board. Well, if you have ever been to one single BOE meeting, you would know that the Plainfield Board of Education already has that system in place and has for a very long time.

If a system doesn't work it should be revised or replaced. Some thing must be wrong with this tried and true system you refer to since there has been too many changes in upper level management including school principles over the past 15 years to give any continuity to operation.

Your call for an appointed BOE may look good to those that are looking for a quick fix to our local school problems, but it is weak in that it does not address any of the real issues facing our school district. In fact, given that the school district is in much better shape than the municipal government at this point in time, moving to an appointed BOE now would just make things worse since Sharon (Jerry) would just use the school district as a patronage tool to make up for what they were unable to deliver to their contributors through the City coffers.

A change in structure would not be a quick fix. I agree that in view of the party's history of appointments such as Commissioners to the PMUA there should be concern about who is appointed. But the buck now would stop at that ONE PERSON. I would rather take my chances on that person elected by at least 40% of the voters than those chosen by only less than 15%. Moreover, although the local party officially "does not run a slate", it has supported certain individuals at each election and campaigned against others. What is the difference. Let us have a focus for mismanagement and/or malfeasance if need be.




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