Thursday, March 4, 2010

Board Meeting Policy - BE (Local) - separate votes and public discussion

Last Thursday, February 25, 2010, the Dallas ISD Board considered two proposals to revise the official Board meeting policy - BE (Local).

I submitted the proposed changes shown in the document labeled Version B for Board consideration.

Version B would have accomplished several changes and restored flexibility to the Trustees in discussing agenda items - the same flexibility that had existed before changes were made on September 11, 2008 (Special Called Board Meeting) and November 20, 2008.  Trustee Nancy Bingham had previously indicated that the restriction on pulling an item from the agenda was requested at that time by Trustees Price and Blackburn.

Version B attempted to:
  • restore the right of any Trustee to pull an item for a separate vote
  • return the deadline for pulling an item to Wednesday (as it had been previously), the day before the Board meeting, instead of Tuesday
  • require the approval of the Board President before changes can be made to an Agenda between a Board Briefing and the Board Meeting date
  • make a minor clarifying language revision
However, Version B was defeated primarily because of the proposed deadline change from Tuesday back to Wednesday.

The defeat of Version B moved ahead despite staff confirmation that the current electronic system would allow an item to be pulled (and voted on separately) even at the Board meeting.

Voting for policy Version B:
  • Medrano 
  • Nutall
  • Parrott
  • Ranger
Voting against version B:
  • Bingham
  • Blackburn
  • Flores
  • Garza
  • Lowe
There have been numerous times when it was necessary to pull items from the consent agenda which otherwise would not have been discussed at a Board meeting.  Yet, many of those same items, once pulled,  generated important Board discussion.

Even the decision to extend terms and cancel Board elections was going to be passed on the consent agenda with no public discussion.  I pulled these items at the last minute in order to have public discussion of such an important Board action and to oppose it.

Why would such important issues be placed on the consent agenda?

Another example - last week I pulled for separate vote the agenda item calling for the May 8, 2010 Trustee Election.  I did so in order to speak against using Dallas ISD resources to send out thousands of full color newsletters and other communications during the election that would unfairly benefit the Trustees already in office - in potential violation of the state law against "electioneering.".  I had made the same comment before the previously delayed election.

Trustees Blackburn and Bingham were not pleased.

Another Trustee - Jerome Garza, who indicated he will not be running for re-election in May - also voted against calling for the May 8, 2010 election for an entirely different reason.  While that was not expected, there would have been no discussion at all and no opportunity for Trustee Garza's vote against calling the election had this item been left on the consent agenda.

Yes, I believe in public discussion of important public matters.

The vote last Thursday indicates there are Trustees who still want to make that more difficult.