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Public comment on Ojai school board's 'governance handbook'

 Philip Bagley of Ojai submitted these two public comments for the Tuesday, April 20, Ojai Unified School District board meeting. To read the school board agenda item, he is commenting upon, read HERE. The April 20 agenda is HERE.

The school board will also meet today, Wednesday, April 21, in open session at 5:30 p.m. and in closed session at 4:45 p.m. That meeting will be livestreamed. View the OVN article on the April 21 agenda HERE.

By Philip Bagley — Ojai

I encourage the Board to reject the “Board Governance Handbook.” The Board should ask why this Handbook necessary at all, particularly given that the Board is already governed by its numerous Board Policies, Administrative Regulations, the Education Code, Government Code, etc. What new requirements or protocols does the Handbook attempt to implement on top of those already in place? And again, why?

Also, although the document claims that it was “originally approved June 22, 2020,” the minutes from that date do not reflect that. In fact, I couldn’t see that the Handbook was ever approved by the Board. Instead, it appears that the last action the Board took in connection with this item was on March 11, 2020, when discussion was continued to the next board meeting (4/22/20), and subsequently not discussed. The Board has rejected approving the Handbook at least two times, and should do so again.

Why were “Board Goals” and an accompanying “Mid-year Update” included in the Handbook at all? Given that this item, “Board Meeting Process and Content,” is to discuss proposed changes to the Handbook and “discuss the overall process and content of Board meetings,” it appears that first 24 pages of the handbook should have been included with Item 3.1.2 (“District Assessment”). The inclusion of the Board's goals, and updates, in this document seems unnecessary and sort of hides them.

Why does this version of the Handbook delete the provision previously in “2. Bringing New Agenda Items” about the public’s right to submit written requests for agenda items directly to Board Members or a verbal request during the public comment portion of the meeting? See Item 7.5.4 from the March 11, 2020 meeting.

Why does this version attempt to add back the previously deleted provision in “5. Hearing Agenda Items” stating that the time limits listed can be adjusted or waived, but only in the discretion of the Board President or through the approved motion of the Board? And also, why add back the previously deleted language about “masquerade[ing] personal attacks or competing philosophies as questions”?

Why the need for a unified “philosophy” regarding questions in the first place? How does this assist the Board or the public?

There are many more issues with this document that should be considered by the Board and should lead to this Handbook being rejected as unnecessary, but hopefully I have outlined enough so that it is clear that, at a miiumum, no action should be taken on it tonight. Thanks.

4-20-21 Public Comment received after 4 p.m.

Item - 3.1.2

Philip Bagley Comment:

1a. The Board should consider whether it is the best use of limited District resources to continue running the “Family Fund,” especially when there are ample local community partners and non-profit groups that are much more experienced in conducting these types of efforts in the valley. What is the purpose of having the District act as an intermediary when there are many other groups who are enthusiastic, willing and able to do the same things to support students and their families?

2d. Why should the implementation of GATE in the 2022-23 school year be delayed due to COVID? Why can’t things be done now to prepare for implementation?

2e. Why were no student surveys conducted regarding the distance learning program, despite being listed as the applicable measurable objective?

3a. Why is a survey regarding access to the internet only being conducted of Spanish language-preferred families? 3e. The mid-year update only discusses Summit, despite the goal including Matilija Online and Nordhoff Online. Are any students actually enrolled in Matilija Online and Nordhoff Online? The measurable objective was to “develop baseline enrollment data.” What is it? And what marketing or promotional materials have been produced for Matilija Online and Nordhoff Online, if any?

5d. How does it serve the District’s interest to increase engagement on social media? Is this a good use of District staff time and resources?

 

 

The agenda item regarding board “norms and protocols” is copied below:

Governance Norms and Protocols

 

NORMS

We understand that the work of the Board is to establish the vision, create policies, and assure accountability. This Board will emphasize planning, policy-making, and communication rather than becoming involved in the management of the schools. The Board will set clear goals for themselves and the Superintendent. The Board and Superintendent will facilitate goal setting for the school district.

The Superintendent, as the chief executive officer, manages the schools and makes recommendations, proposals, or suggestions on most matters that come before the Board.

We understand that Board meetings are meetings of the Board held in public, not open forum town hall meetings. We will keep this in mind as we conduct our meetings, allowing the public to provide input at the time allotted to ensure the multiple voices from the community inform Board deliberations.

We will consistently abide by our formal processes so that all persons are treated fairly and equally. We participate in professional development and commit the time and energy necessary to be informed and effective leaders.

The Board will lead by example. We agree to avoid words and actions that create a negative impression on an individual, the Board, or the District. While we encourage debate and differing points of view, we will do it with care and respect.

 

Board Protocols

Board protocols describe how the Board Members serve and perform during and outside of meetings.

Boards operate in meetings. Individual Board Members do not have authority. The only authority to direct action rests with the body as a whole and it takes a consensus or majority of the Board Members to set direction. Outside of meetings, individual Members operate as advocates and community leaders.

 

PROTOCOLS

 

Agenda Questions Asked Before a Meeting

Protocols:

Board Members have an opportunity to meet with or email the Superintendent before the Board meeting to discuss comments/questions on the agenda. Within Brown Act guidelines and to the extent possible, Board Members should attempt to have the Superintendent answer questions and resolve concerns with items in the proposed agenda at this meeting in order to save time at the subsequent public meeting. Board Members will, insofar as possible, let the Superintendent know ahead of time when a request for information will be made in public so that staff can be prepared to provide a thorough answer. Board Members should adhere to the “no surprises” rule with the Superintendent.

 

Bringing New Agenda Items

Protocols:

If there is at least one Board Member who wishes to place an item on the agenda, it  shall be placed on a future agenda in a timely manner by the Superintendent, subject to the provisions of Board Policy 9322. The best time to recommend items is during the period at the end of each meeting that is set aside for general Board comments.

These items will be tracked in the “Parking Lot.” The Superintendent will then recommend a future meeting date for bringing the item before the Board based upon the anticipated length of time his/her staff will need to prepare for discussion of the item. The Board recognizes that from time to time issues may come up during the periods between scheduled meetings that require immediate presentation to the Board. In these cases, the President may give the Superintendent latitude to include these items on an upcoming agenda

 

Consent Calendar

Housed within the agenda, the purpose of the Consent Calendar is to expedite routine operational business with minimal discussion.

Protocols:

The Board will move and approve the Consent Calendar as a whole unless items are pulled. Items on the Consent calendar may be pulled when approving the agenda at the beginning of the meeting. Discussion and vote on particular items occurs only when an item is pulled. There are two specific times that call for an item to be pulled:

 

When a Board Member plans to vote “no”

When a Board Member needs further information or discussion before deciding how to vote. A member of the public may request that an item be pulled from the Consent Calendar, and discussed/voted upon separately, during the initial time for public input. Pulled items trail to the end of the consent agenda. Prior to the vote seeking approval for the consent calendar, Board Members may comment on an item without pulling it from the Consent Calendar.

 

Timing of Board Meetings

Protocols:

Items on the agenda include approximate time for the discussion and the amount of time reserved for that item. If it appears that an item may take more than 5 minutes over the allotted time, the President will ask Board Members whether they want to continue discussion of the item and, if so, for how long.

 

Hearing Agenda Items

Protocols:

The following order of events and timeline guidance should be followed:

 

Staff Reports

Superintendent information and staff presentation

Board member questions (3 min per speaker)

Public comment (3 min per speaker)

Board member comments (2 min per speaker)

Board discussion of Superintendent recommendation

Board acceptance of report. The above time limits are general guidelines and may be waived or adjusted at the discretion of the Board President (and/or through a motion approved by a majority of the Board). The Board may request further information from or provide additional guidance to the Superintendent at this time. When appropriate, the Board may request a future action item related to the report.

 

Philosophy regarding questions after the report:

Questions and consequent answers should intend to amplify a report and add missing detail from previous comments.

The question should highlight an important value or emphasis for future District direction, being aware that wise judgment is required.

Will the question/answer influence your vote or change the vote of another Member?

Members should be careful to not masquerade personal attacks or competing philosophies as questions or

If a Board Member wants to make a substantive point, they will state it clearly and concisely during Board member comment or Board discussion.

Generally, briefing materials (charts, statistics, PowerPoint, etc.) will be provided to Board Members preferably 72 hours but not less than 24 hours in advance in order to give Board Members adequate time to review the material, and the opportunity to send questions to the Superintendent so that his/her responses can be incorporated into the respective Report(s).

Action Items

When the item is up for action, the Board will hear the item in the same way as above and then:

Move for action and seek a second on the motion

If motion dies for lack of a second, no discussion or vote occurs on the motion,.

If there is no second, the chair may ask for a new, possibly related motion and seek a second on that motion.

Deliberation by Board Members

Call for the Vote

 

Voting

As a courtesy to the Board, Members should attempt to clarify their intended vote during deliberation.

 

Use of Abstentions

If a member feels that there is insufficient information to vote on a motion, that member should move that the motion be tabled for lack of information and request the item be placed on a subsequent agenda. If there is no second on his/her motion to table or if the motion does not pass, the member may abstain from a vote. However, agendized action items are known in advance which provides Board Members ample time and opportunity to receive all information needed to vote intelligently and confidently on the motion in question.

 

Conflicts of Interest

If a Board member has a financial conflict of interest as defined by Government Code 1090, he/she shall make this known to the Board before discussion of the issue and shall recuse themselves from any discussion and/or action taken on the item.

“Conflict of Interest” is explicitly defined in Board Bylaw 9270. Before abstaining on any issue, a Board Member should be thoroughly familiar with this Bylaw in its entirety.

 

Community and Public Input

Protocols:

There are two opportunities for public input at board meetings:

Introducing non-agendized items during the time for public comment

When an agenda item occurs

 

In both cases, cards are provided to facilitate public input. Individuals must limit their remarks to 3 minutes. The Board hears leadership committee and stakeholder reports from students (Student Advisory), teachers (OFT), and staff (CSEA), during the time for public comment on non-agendized items. Board Members listen to public input and take it into account during discussion and deliberation. However, except for specific questions on committee reports and general comments. It is incumbent on the Board President’s role to acknowledge and thank members of the public for their input as appropriate. Once Board Members make their comments and move to discussion on an item, the audience and staff no longer participate – the Board conducts the business of the public in public, audience and staff become observers.*

 

*Exception: If the Board feels additional public/staff input would be helpful in determining a course of action, the Board President may make such a request.

 

Requests for Information

Protocols:

If it appears that a request for information from one or more Board Members will take considerable staff time, the Board President will restate the request and ask the Superintendent for input regarding time and resources involved. The Board President will then seek consensus from the entire Board to see if a majority supports the request.

Board Members will not submit direct information requests directly questions to the staff/teachers. Board Members submit all questions directly to the Superintendent. Board Members may make appointments outside of the public meetings with the Superintendent are strongly advised for lengthy inquiries. Members will self-monitor to ensure requests for information do not place unnecessary or inordinate demands on the time and resources of District Staff, especially when it may impact their ability to complete their normally assigned duties. When an individual Member requests information, it will be provided to all Members.

 

Requests for Action

Protocols:

The only authority to direct action rests with the full majority of the Board sitting at the Board table.

Board Members may request action during Board meetings, explaining their interest in a particular course of action and asking that it come back as an action item.

 

Board Members' Role in the Public

Protocols:

Board Members are reminded of their obligations as public servants. Board Bylaw 9010 provides great detail with regards to that obligation and should be reviewed periodically by Board Members for compliance.

 

Self-monitoring

Protocols:

Individual Board Members agree to review and adhere to meeting norms, goals and Board Member roles as defined by this document and Board Bylaws. Board Members should generally not make or receive personal phone calls or texts during a meeting. We ask that personal cellular telephones be silenced before meetings are called to order. If a Board member is required to take a call during a meeting, the Board Member will announce an announcement will be made in public that to record the call was not related to an agenda item. In order to conduct efficient and effective Board meetings, Board Members will come to the Board meetings prepared and ready to do business. Board Members agree to speak to the issues on the agenda and attend to fellow Board Members respectfully.

 

Site Visits

Protocols:

Board Members are encouraged to visit school sites. Board Members shall personally contact the respective site Principal to arrange a convenient calendar date for their visit and the site Principal shall advise forward it to the Superintendent’s office. “Drive-bys” or “drop- ins” on staff and schools are discouraged and should be coordinated with Superintendent or his/her assistant. A board member whose child is attending a district school is aware of his/her role as a board member when interacting with district employees about his/her child. Because her/his position as a board member may inhibit the performance of school personnel, the board member informs the superintendent or designee before volunteering in her/his classroom.

 

Spokesperson

Protocols:

If a communication is sent to Board members, members may provide an initial response confirming receipt of the communication, explaining how the Brown Act restraints us from conducting business/discussion in non-public communications, and encouraging the sender to attend a future board meeting where the Board’s business is publicly conducted. Board members shall courtesy copy the Superintendent and the Board President with any such response. The Board President is also the initial spokesperson for the Board with respect to controversial or “hot-button” issues that may require explanation beyond confirmation of receipt. This protocol is adopted in recognition that the District’s interests may be best served by a timely, informative response to clarify any action taken with regards to the contentious matter. Again, the Board President shall courtesy copy the Superintendent and other Board Members with any such response. Nevertheless, this protocol is not intended to stifle comments from other Board Members, particularly if they disagree with remarks offered by the Board President or if they believe that further comments are important to public discussion and understanding of such issues. In providing additional comments, individual Members should:

Endeavor to permit the Board President an initial opportunity to comment on the issue,

Be mindful that multiple voices may confuse or distract from constructive discussion of the issues,

Not circulate their responses to all Board Members as it might risk constituting an interactive discussion through email in violation of the Brown Act, and

Avoid comments that suggest that the individual member’s comments represent the viewpoint of the entire board.

The hope of the Board is that the public will understand that these protocols are intended to achieve a practical and appropriate balance among the following important but at times competing board objectives, namely, a desire to:

Be responsive to, and respectful of, communications from the public;

Promote efficiency in communications;

Be faithful to the sometimes challenging limitations imposed by California’s Brown Act.

 

Updates and Information to the Board:

Protocols:

Weekly Updates will be sent to the board and should include, at a minimum:

any major incidents on district campuses

updates on current projects

updates on staff changes

The Board should be notified in a timely manner when a legal filing or complaint is received.

Updates on the legal filing may be provided in closed session.

 

Hiring Committees

Interviewing district personnel for employment is an administrative function. However, in determining the composition of personnel committees, the Superintendent may elect to include Board members by seeking volunteers.

When on the panel Board members will:

be members of the panel, not chairs

offer only observations and assessments

refrain from making final recommendations regarding the candidate

speak only for themselves as individuals, rather than on behalf of the Board

 

 

 

 

 

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