The Superintendent presented the Scott County School Board at its December 2nd Work Session, her desire to change School Board meeting days and times. After some discussion, Board Member Haley Conway suggested tabling the issue until January so the newly elected Board Members could have a voice in a decision that will affect them. Before the last word left Mr. Conway’s mouth, Vice Chair JoAnna Fryman reminded him that the meeting schedule had to be approved before year’s end, with no explanation as to why. With no further protest, including none from the Board Attorney, a vote was scheduled for the next week’s regular scheduled Board Meeting. It intuitively felt wrong, but no big deal – yet. But for intrepid board-watcher Carol Landry, we would be none the wiser still.
Turns out Mrs. Landry had discovered in the meantime, that should the Board proceed with a vote (as their published agenda for the Dec. 9, 2014 meeting called for) they would be in violation of their own Board Policy 01.42. 01.42 restricts establishing a meeting schedule to a meeting in January for the very purpose of preventing lame duck Board Members a vote on an issue that will not affect them, but will affect their replacements.
In an attempt to prevent this impending policy violation, Mrs. Landry signed up (per Board policy for public comment) to speak at the Dec. 9th meeting and alert the Board to avoid the vote. How did the Board show their appreciation? With a shameful attempt to humiliate the genteel Mrs. Landry.
Board procedure curiously restricts that public comment concern only items published on that evening’s agenda, and the commenter must list with their request to speak, the agenda item number of which they wish to speak to from that agenda. The agenda is published prior to Board meetings on the school district’s website, and from that published agenda for the 12-9-2014 meeting, Mrs. Landry listed item #21 in her comment request. Item #21 read “APPROVE BOARD MEETING SCHEDULE FOR 2015.” The “approve” means there is to be a vote.
Keep in mind that, that same curious Board procedure for public comment requires the speaker make comment at the beginning of the meeting and does not allow public comment once the Board reaches and considers the item, an awkward process indeed.
At the beginning of last Tuesday’s meeting, Board Chair Ward recognized Mrs. Landry to speak about Item #21 but feigned confusion when she read the title, even though he had approved the agenda from which she read. Mr. Ward insisted that Item #21 concerned a completely different topic. Confused, Mrs. Landry attempted to seek clarification, but a delighted Chairman Ward took great pleasure in his charade to humiliate Mrs. Landry, knowing he had revised the agenda without updating the district’s website. And in their quietness, each and every other Board member became complicit in failing to stop what they each knew was going on.
You see, a School Board has two mechanisms at their disposal if they wish to alter an agenda after it’s published. The typical way, as occurs after many agendas are initially published by the Scott School Board (see archived agendas on the district’s website) is to publish a “REVISED agenda.” Mrs. Landry correctly pointed out to Mr. Ward that she had checked the district’s website for any revision just before leaving home to attend the meeting and there was no revision, giving her confidence that Item #21 remained “APPROVE BOARD MEETING SCHEDULE FOR 2015.” Without Chair Ward or any other member explaining to Mrs. Landry that an unprecedented, unpublished revision had taken place, thus replacing her Item #21 with another, unrelated item, the humiliation continued. Not one to stand for such humiliation, Mrs. Landry finally stated that her intent was to alert the Board that a vote on meeting dates and times would be in violation of Board policy. Then it happened.
Chair Ward, prepared to continue with the meeting, was interrupted by Vice-Chair JoAnna Fryman, wishing to address Mrs. Landry. Mrs. Fryman proceeded to explain to Mrs. Landry that the official agenda is the one that is approved as the first action at each and every Board meeting and that once approved, it is the agenda the Board must proceed with. She continued that the official agenda they had just approved at the beginning of the meeting had no such item title as “APPROVE BOARD MEETING SCHEDULE FOR 2015”, basically stating “sorry about your luck.” Confused, Mrs. Landry sat down and acquiesced.
No one bothered to tell Mrs. Landry that the agenda item she was referencing had been renumbered. More importantly, no one dared mention that its title had been changed to “FURTHUR DISCUSSION OF BOARD MEETING SCHEDULE FOR 2015” to avoid the very vote and violation Mrs. Landry was alerting them to.
Turns out the Board had become aware of their impending violation at least as early as the previous Sunday evening, when a Facebook post went out from schstoobig. That post revealed Board policy 01.42 and assured readers that a “revised” agenda would now be forthcoming from the Board. Turns out that Facebook post was correct, but schstoobig could not have predicted the Board would keep the “revision” a secret. A "secret" agenda prevents public comment due to the Board's policy that only agenda items can be spoken to by the public. And it turns out there was a little more to the story that resulted in some even more embarrassing “revisions.” Before getting to that, recall Mrs. Fryman’s explanation to Mrs. Landry about the official agenda and recall our stating above that there are two ways to alter an agenda after it is published on line.
Having chosen to secretly revise their agenda in this case, the Board could have instead chosen to “AMEND” its agenda. However, unlike a “secret” revision, an amendment leaves an audit trail, as it would be recorded in the meeting minutes (an agenda amendment occurs after a motion is made to approve the agenda, but before a vote is made and is recorded in the minutes). Unexposed, a secret revision remains secret for posterity.
Let’s see now. Mrs. Fryman made clear that after approving the agenda before them, that agenda becomes the official agenda that cannot be deviated from. What explains then, that later in this meeting and concerning an unrelated “consent” agenda item, the Board arbitrarily dropped item “g” from the consent list? No vote, no nothing, just approved the consent item, stating it no longer included item g. It was clear the need for this change was known before the meeting and should have been amended before approving the agenda. More “making the rules as we go.” This improper deletion should be recorded in the meeting minutes. We shall see. Our point here is, we suspect the Board wanted no record of any amendments occurring at this meeting that would further illustrate they could have amended for the Item #21 change as well.
But the kicker - the “secret” revision held another secret. Included now on the secret revised agenda was an additional agenda item titled “APPROVE SPECIAL CALLED MEETING, JANUARY 13, 2015”. Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we first set out to deceive.
Before we explain this “special called” meeting, we must ask – why not just be truthful? Why not just tell Mrs. Landry that they too had discovered they were about to make a mistake so they changed the agenda item to avoid doing so? Better yet, why did they not publish the revision as they so often do? The fact is, this little failure to recognize an impending Board policy violation was no big deal. A simple “whoops” would have been sufficient and respected. Instead, our Board chooses first to cover up, rather than be forthright. And the web tangles.
For as long as we can remember, the Scott County School Board has set its (required by law) regular scheduled meeting for the second Tuesday of the month. So what are they doing scheduling a “special called” meeting on that same date in January? This is where the tangle gets funny, and has to be an embarrassment for the Board Attorney.
Turns out the last time the Board published its annual meeting schedule, it failed to schedule any meetings beyond December, meaning no regular scheduled meeting was scheduled for that second Tuesday in January, 2015, just assumed. But because policy 01.42 states that establishing the next year’s worth of meetings must occur at a meeting in January, our Board was caught between a rock and a hard place, unable to schedule meetings until January but unable now to schedule a meeting in January to do just that. LOL, this oversight has now required that the Board invoke a “special called meeting” provision that comes with it restrictions not applicable to a regular meeting, but will salvage the Board so they can swear in their new members and establish a meeting schedule for the rest of the year (and hopefully a meeting in January, 2016).
You can decide for yourself if the vote originally scheduled for the December 9th meeting was knowingly done so in hopes of avoiding having to schedule the first meeting of the new Board members as a special called meeting. Our hope is that those new Board Members, with the inevitable errors that will come their way, will instead just be forthright and just say “whoops.” We can respect that. We all make mistakes.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!