Policies fundamentally affect the way the district is run. As I have been told many times, the primary function of the school board is to set policy. As of this morning, the school board’s Policy Committee has been shot in the knees. Dr. Metzler and the other co-chair of the Policy Committee have unilaterally decided that deliberations by the Policy Committee should not exceed 10 minutes on any one policy at Policy Committee meetings and that topics to be discussed will be pre-screened. The notice came down from on high without any previous discussion by the Policy Committee.
Hello Policy Committee Members:
Co-Chairs Peter Bealo and Dr. Metzler shall institute the following process for policy review as a means to foster more productive and efficient committee meetings.
Policy meeting packets will be distributed at least two weeks in advance of the meeting to encourage individual policy review prior to the meeting.
1. Committee members are encouraged to submit their comments and suggestions about the policies to the co-chairs ONLY by the Monday before the meeting. These comments and suggestions will be considered for meeting discussion. Copying to a quorum of the committee could very well constitute a meeting, and as such, this practice is strongly discouraged.
2. A time limit of 10 minutes for discussion shall be given to each policy under review. This is where comments and suggestions to the co-chairs will be helpful in driving that discussion. It will be up to the co-chairs to determine if additional time is necessary to address a policy.
It is important to note this process is not intended to prohibit a healthy discussion about the policies of the school district; just the opposite, it is to help direct the discussion and keep the meetings productive and moving along as charged by the school board as its chief function, along with providing the resources for the successful implementation of these policies.
Please find attached the December 4th Policy Committee meeting packet. You will notice the first item on the agenda is the goals for 2014-15. Your ideas and suggestions for goals for the current year can be emailed to Dr. Metzler and Mr. Bealo as well.
Have a good weekend,
Recent policy changes at Timberlane no longer require a large number of contracts to go out to competitive bid. As of a few days ago the administration can now move up to $25,000 around for different budgeted purposes without elected official knowledge or approval. One policy change being proposed will limit public comment at school board meetings to items on the agenda and only on the agenda. (This has the happy consequence of stopping budget committee members from making public comment at school board meetings, and parents from bringing up issues.)
Since I’ve joined the Policy Committee, the number of policies we have been able to advance for the laughable “first and second readings” has gone from 6-10 policies a meeting to 2-6. Is this because I am disruptive? No, it is because I ask us to really think about what these policies mean. Mr. Bealo said just a few days ago at the most recent school board meeting that our discussions are productive and important.
The committee is large. It consists of eleven people only four of whom are school board members. Our policies are a mess because they have gone through many agenda-driven revisions without any real attention to detail. They have inconsistencies and in at least one case outright unintelligible sentences. So far as I’ve been able to observe, the Policy Committee’s primary purpose is to transfer as much authority to the superintendent as possible in the shortest time possible.
The Co-chair is asking for goals. Here’s mine: Disband the Policy Committee and let the superintendent write the policies to his liking. Then the yoke of checks and balances will be lifted from our shoulders.
P.S. Policy Committee meetings are just one hour long once a month. Not much time to devote to the Board’s most important function, is it? Lack of deliberative time is the chief ploy the district uses to control outcomes. This is in keeping with giving the Budget Committee the district’s full budget with only two meetings remaining in their deliberative schedule (three if you count Dec. 23 which is invariably cancelled). The second most well-used ploy is withholding information and surrendering it when it cannot be useful as is done during budget deliberations. More on that soon.
UPDATE 11/17/14: Listen to radio commentator Rich Girard’s take on this: Girard on Limiting Debate