Skip to content

Meetings March 19, 20, 21 2019

March 26, 2019

There were three board meetings this week. There was nothing notable or especially memorable, but I want to continually report on my board member activities.

(To see my calendar for past and future meetings and all school events that I attend, use the link from my home page or click here. Sometimes I put descriptive notes in my calendar instead of here. The calendar is managed by the school district.)

The first (March 19th) was of the Facilities Subcommittee (here is the link to that committee on the district website, with agenda, minutes/”Meeting at a Glance” and attached documents). Subjects reviewed were a review of the hundred-million-dollar-plus in school site upgrades underway at the moment (see the attached documents for list), a report on the recent bond refinancing (which will have no impact on the district budget but will lower local taxpayer’s tax bills by a combined million dollars), a review of drop off and pickup-traffic concerns at several schools with proposed solutions, benefits and costs of recent energy upgrades, a review of recent safety and security projects, review of the under-used H. Glenn Richardson school site, and a review of the former Sullivan Middle School school site.

The second meeting (March 20th) was a review and updates of a handful of board policies (available from this link), including those dealing with online donation, disaster preparedness plans, open enrollment transfers, civics education, athletic competitions, placement in math courses, career technical (vocational) education, conflict of interest disclosures, and board meeting agendas and minutes. All of the changes were prompted by changes either in state law or recommended by the state school boards association. (To see the district website page on this Governance Subcommittee, use this link, which contains all of the proposed changes as well as meeting summaries.)

The third meeting (March 21st) was the regular semi-monthly full meeting. The notable item was a group of parents and students speaking in behalf of a beloved coach.

The meeting consisted of mostly routine items (see the meeting summary at this link, or see the agenda and minutes at this link ), but there were 11 public speakers who spoke on issues of concern. Lastly, I made my first “no” vote (and was outvoted).

Routine items were votes affirming administrative decisions on student expulsions, construction bids, new high school courses, as well as hearing reports on a variety of matters.

I spoke briefly on the upcoming changes to the “release-time” program at elementary schools, where currently music and art teachers rotate among multiple sites but starting next year will no longer rotate and some schools will have music, some will have art, and some will have other specialty subjects (to be chosen by the school). I said that the district has a long history of elementary music (going back decades) with only a brief interruption during the latest recession. This upcoming change may be the first time that elementary music (“visual and performing arts”) is given up at some elementary schools. I also said I’m concerned about the process for a school site choosing its specialty subject and for changing it after it’s been established. The item was not up for a board vote or discussion, but I was able to briefly express my thoughts.

Another comment I made on an information item was to commend the district staff involved in the recent refinancing of bonds. I said it doesn’t help their own budget any, but will save community taxpayers more than a million dollars over the remaining term of the bonds. I said the more I learn about district officials, the more confidence I gain that they are professional and capable. It’s really a high-functioning team, in spite of my former ignorant opinion that they’re just ordinary government bureaucrats. It’s a pleasure to gradually learn the role many play in keeping our district finely tuned.

It’s always a pleasure to hear district recognitions, and this time Steve Vancil, Chair of the Travis Regional Armed Forces Committee, recognized the Fairfield High School JROTC unit for their participation in the Travis Regional Armed Forces Committee Military Recognition Night. Also, Thea Spence, Transportation Administration Secretary, was recognized for outstanding achievement in support of the “Inspire: Dreams Move Forward 2019” program, which involved arranging for dozens of buses to transport students to the special event in February.

Most of the public comments speakers were students and parents from Rodriguez High School speaking in praise (and concern for the employment status of) the cheerleading coach, “Coach Mahogany.” I don’t know any details of the situation, but they said she was recently terminated but had been a powerful inspiration to parents and students, setting an long example of high standards and persistence. I was sad at the thought of someone unexpectedly losing a position, but gratified to hear so many students and parents stand up to recognize the impact a teacher/coach had made.

On a personal note, I made my first “No” vote at this meeting. Since we have a protocol that minority votes should be explained, I read this statement: “We have a written protocol that board members who vote against a proposal have an obligation to explain their vote. I note that I am exactly 102 days into my term as a board member, and this will be my first dissenting vote. When we reviewed the handbook a few weeks ago, we added a statement on page 8, item 34, that says: “Board Members will refrain from soliciting and organizing public comment on presentations.” We didn’t say what prompted that, but I suppose it would apply to things like my wife speaking earlier tonight in response to the presentation on school music release-time program. She and I both belong to a community group that advocates for school music programs. I think that proposed change was too hasty. I went and reviewed a board policy that we revised just last month, policy number 1100 with the title “Communication With The Public.” It contains this sentence: “Community members are encouraged to become involved in school activities, participate on district and school committees, provide input at Board meetings, submit suggestions to district staff, and use the district’s complaint procedures as appropriate.” That part about “community members are encouraged to … provide input at board meetings” is, to me, incompatible with the restriction we are adding to our protocols. When a community member mentions something they feel strongly about, I want to be able to say, without violating our protocols, “I encourage you to share that with the school board at our next meeting.” Therefore I’m going to vote against the proposed revisions. Thank you.”

There were several sub-votes (small changes to the handbook), but it passed anyway. I hope my disagreement on the item does not hurt my relationship with the other board members. I will fully support this and all other matters that are passed by a majority of the board, but I value being able to voice my opinion before the vote.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: