Last night I attempted to modify how we release our agenda and supporting documents to the public. This year the board moved to have the work session and business meeting on the same night for a number of meetings. For the 2013-2014 meeting schedule this occurs 8 times. We currently have 6 more of these double meetings left for the remainder of our published meeting calendar. The result of this change is that we are allowing the public and media only hours to communicate any concerns with us when in the past they have had a full week. This is an inappropriate way to govern and this policy needs to be amended so that we are open and accountable to our community.
There has been a perception over the past couple of years that the board is not being transparent. We are not going to change how people feel about this by creating an environment that systemically withholds information from those that we are trying to serve. (Please see the article below from Mark Andrews)
The Daily Tribune News – Shultz proposes consistent board agendas no vote
A proposal by Bartow County Board of Education member Matt Shultz to release agenda information one week prior to business meetings did not see a second motion during Monday’s business session. This year, the board previously voted to allow the flexibility of holding both work sessions and business sessions the same evening when there is an abbreviated agenda for one or both meetings.
Shultz said instances in which both meetings are held on the same day creates the “unintended consequence” of having agendas and their accompanying materials not available until at least 24 hours prior to the business session, as required by state law.
“One of the unintended consequences of [back-to-back meetings] is we are essentially releasing whatever information we have for that meeting to the public and the media late afternoon on the day that we’re having the meeting. There’s just no way possible we can responsibly take any concerns from the community when we’re releasing the information that way,” Shultz said.
When the board traditionally holds its work session and business session on the second and third Mondays of the month, respectively, the public is given approximately one week to review the agenda and accompanying materials for the business session, and the agenda for the business session is discussed during the work session.
The agendas for the work session and business session are generally available on the board’s website, www.bartow.k12.ga.us, between the Friday and Sunday prior to a board’s work session. The board generally is provided with the agenda by the Friday prior to a work session.
“I like having that week to be able to ask additional questions to [Superintendent John Harper] or if I have some questions I want to ask the staff,” Shultz said. “I just don’t think we’re giving the board enough time to review potential policy changes, and in particular, I know we’re not giving the community any time at all to address any concerns they have with us.”
Board Chairman Davis Nelson said the nature of board meetings requires flexibility on when agendas and their accompanying documents should become available.
“We can think it’s easy to pull all that [information] together, but many times it is last minute. And, what I don’t want to have to deal with is that we put an agenda out and then that agenda gets changed before the meeting, and then people feel like they’ve been misled, either with items taken off [the agenda] or items added to it. And I don’t want to go down that road and people feeling that has taken place,” Nelson said.
Harper added, “Oftentimes we’re waiting on prices and quotes from vendors to be able to put [the agenda] together; it’s nothing that’s intentional by myself or this staff …,” Harper said. “… I do have a major concern this board does not get an opportunity to view the agenda prior to the public and press and that has caused us problems in the past.
“We have had a calendar published that didn’t get voted on, we had furlough days that were related to our staff before we had an opportunity to talk with our staff, and I’m trying to protect this school system and this board with the agendas and the things we do as a board to serve our students and our community. I think on those few times we have a combined meeting, I’ll look close at getting that agenda more quickly so we have ample time to do that … .”
In other news, the board approved its consent agenda, and Shultz requested further elaboration on the boards approval of the Georgia School Boards Association’s legislative positions. Board member Fred Kittle asked last month the board have further discussion on the positions, including calling for non-partisan school board elections, school choice, school vouchers and language regarding transportation costs.
Harper read the opening statement to be sent to the GSBA regarding the local board’s approval.
“The Bartow County Board of Education has reviewed the GSBA legislative priorities and supports the organization’s efforts to promote local school districts at the state level,” Harper said. “Even though we have individual concerns with some of the priorities, as a board, we desire to encourage the overall direction of the GSBA.”