Talk about taking one for the team: Tuesday night’s board meeting was four hours that those in attendance will never get back.
The fun started with the superintendent filling for Assistant/Associate/Deputy/Whatever Superintendent Kirk Bauermeister to give an update on the status of the district’s Human Relations Task Force.
Before providing the update, the super offered WAY too much information as to why Bauermeister was out. It’s nothing serious – a good thing, actually – but he could have and should have said simply that he was out on a family matter.
Ah, but why say it in seven words when you can say it in seven hundred?…
The super didn’t actually offer any Task Force update, he just introduced someone who did, who introduced other people who did.
The presenters offered the Task Force’s Phase I recommendations. That’s the only summary I will give – no details – because I am not alone in the belief that the final recommendations will be little more than the meetings and programs that are already in place at our schools. Anything new is not of tremendous substance.
The most important trustee comment of the night regarding the Task Force was spoken by Board President Charlene Metoyer, who said,
“What are our [trustees] next steps? Our next board meeting is on August 27. That’s too far. So we need to glean through this, and [decide] what can we jump on and get started right away. I know that we can’t change the entire curriculum and move everything but we also don’t want to say, ‘It’s too late, it will take too long, we can’t get it done.’ We don’t want to do that. We are anxious to get something going. And I absolutely know that all sorts fo stuff is going on in elementary schools. Let’s get it so that it seems like it’s going with a purpose and not ‘all over’ so I’m all over that. And when Mrs. [Trustee Martha] Fluor is done [with her comments] maybe you [looks at the super] can give us direction on that.”
Fluor’s first comment was a question about trying to increase student involvement. This was something that the Task Force fretted about multiple times. It was a really big issue. I guess the super did not tell the trustees, even though he could not have missed hearing it at any of the Task Force meetings he did attend.
And guess what? When Trustee Fluor was done, the super did not give the board the direction requested by Metoyer. I’m shocked!
Metoyer then juggled the public comments section around to allow the board to hear from a few folks who wanted to speak about the Task Force. A good move.
I was the third of four people who spoke regarding the Task Force. I said:
“I’m speaking only for myself, not on behalf of the Task Force. Mrs. Black, you said something that triggered a thought that I expressed at the meeting last week to the subcommittee to which I belong. I want to tell it to you now.
“I think it’s really important that we set expectations for the Task Force. We are not going to end hate on campuses. We are not going to stop hate crimes on campuses. It’s really important that we understand that and all agree that if we don’t accomplish that, we haven’t failed.
“I think the greatest accomplishment of the Task Force is going to be that once and for all, we’re letting staff, parents, students, and community members know what’s acceptable behavior, what is not and that we are not going to tolerate any longer the bad behavior.”
The superintendent should have said this a long time ago at the first meeting, but he did not. He has had multiple opportunities, but he has not. I have attended and participated in every Task Force meeting and he has not contributed anything to the Task Force.
And a side note… During the Task Force presentation, the super did something unusual – something I have never seen in my years of attending board meetings. During the presentation – while someone was at the podium talking – he summoned Assistant/Associate/Deputy/Whatever Superintendent Kurt Suhr to the dais.
Suhr walked behind the trustees and huddled with the super for a couple of minutes while they reviewed some document. Suhr then left the room for about 90 minutes before returning.
Along the way, there were many probing questions on some of the presentations and calendar items, most of them from the newest Trustees, Ashley Anderson and Michelle Barto.
Then it was party time.
The super walked down to the podium and presented a draft of District Priorities, which you can read here:
I noted and took issue with item B4 which referred to the Task Force as the “Superintendent’s Human Relations Task Force.” There was an objection to this from Trustee Anderson who offered a more broad reference and the super, looking a bit irked but recognizing a lost cause when he sees one, simply said, “That’s fine.”
I was not sure that this edit was ratified so I e-mailed the trustees a few minutes ago in support of the change.
Then! It was another bullet under B4 that provided the evening’s finest moments. The bullet reads:
Provide students with meaningful opportunities to participate in a democratic
society and engage in service to the community.
Trustee Anderson mentioned the importance to her of including the existing “democratic society” language.
The fireworks were started by Trustee Vicki Snell who objected to the inclusion of the word “democratic,” even when it is in lower case. At one point, Snell said, “I don’t think we should put that word in there.”
“That word.” Ho boy.
We’re now at four minutes of discussion on whether to use “that word” and it was one of the rare times I felt sympathy for the superintendent who seemed exasperated. I know I was, but I also found it comical: In a typical meeting, the trustees take a few seconds to approve millions of your tax dollars, but they spent several minutes discussing whether the U.S. is a democratic society.
The super tried to end the discussion by saying, “Let us work on it.”
Trustee Martha Fluor expressed her dissatisfaction with the breadth and depth of the document saying, in effect, that it was so much that the goals within it could not be accomplished.
The meeting wound up with members of the public speaking on non-agenda items.
Martie O’Meara commented on the logic behind two sections of Public Comments, one near the beginning of each meeting and one near the end and reqeusted that the section for non-agenda items be moved back to the beginning.
On her way to the podium, I asked her if she is a Democrat or a Republican. A little levity helps now and then.
Laurie Smith – a retired N-M teacher – spoke on the delay of the super’s evaluation. She noted that the June 11 board meeting included a discussion of the evaluation but that it seems since to have been delayed and/or hidden.
Wendy Leece used an innovative approach to getting more than the allotted three minutes by starting her comments as she approached the podium Wish I’d thought of that. Leece commented on the board’s lack of transparency, particularly with regard to the super’s contract.
There is a checklist, she said, and a missed deadline of June to and the process has not been followed. All of her arguments were supported by documentation, including the announcement required by the government code.
“There are deadlines here, she said, “you missed them.”