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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Board Meeting Update

The TUHSD Board of Trustees is an elected, legislative body that is responsible for governance of our school district.  Many who have attended board meetings have commented that they can sometimes be difficult to follow.  Board meetings must comply with a specific and rather complex set of laws known as the Brown Act as well as Robert's Rules of Order and so, to the casual observer, these meetings can seem unusually formal at times.
Typically, board meeting notes and highlights are sent to district staff after conclusion of a meeting.  With regard to the meeting that took place yesterday, October 28, we think that parents may also benefit from a summary of the meeting, which includes an explanation of how a board meeting should work.  In particular, at yesterday's meeting there was a procedural error regarding public comment on the consent agenda.  The error was corrected during the course of the meeting, but it created a fair amount of unintended confusion, and for that reason we think it appropriate to discuss what happened and to take the opportunity to help educate District stakeholders both about procedural issues at public meetings, and to summarize some of the matters that were discussed.  
TUHSD Board Meeting Start Times and Locations - In order to enhance opportunities for attendance and participation by staff members, students, parents and community members, some board meetings have a late afternoon start time and others have an evening start time and meetings are held in various locations in the district.  All start times and locations are noted on board agendas.  All agendas are posted 72 hours prior to the meeting on the district website.
Closed Session - Closed session is a discussion among board members and senior District staff, and is not open to the general public.  The Brown Act sets forth the rules about what can be discussed in closed session.  Yesterday, the board began its meeting with a public call to order at 3:40 p.m. in the Redwood library and then approved the closed session agenda.  The general public was provided an opportunity to comment on any item on the closed session agenda at that point.  At this particular meeting, after the call to order, the board moved to a small conference room for closed session and approved personnel actions and discussed one matter of potential litigation.  The board then returned to the Redwood library for open session and reported that the personnel actions were unanimously approved.  Occasionally, the board has a second closed session at the end of a meeting.  When this occurs, it is for items that do not require a vote by the board.
Consent Agenda - The consent agenda is a component of the open session of a board meeting.  It is a tool used to streamline meeting procedures by collecting items into a group whereby all are passed with a single motion and vote.  The public should be provided an opportunity to comment on any item in the consent agenda.  Unfortunately, last evening the process was not followed in the correct sequence.  It was mistakenly stated that the public would be provided the opportunity to make comments after the vote on the consent agenda, under the next item called "public comment".  A member of the audience indicated that she believed this was in error and in response, staff immediately sought legal opinion about the correct process.  After receiving legal advice, the board sought to remedy the situation by reconsidering the consent agenda after additional opportunity for  public comment was provided.  Unfortunately, by the time the consent agenda was reconsidered, several members of the audience who wanted to comment had left the meeting.  In order to provide the public with another opportunity to speak to any issues of concern, the board approved only the time sensitive items which were a field trip, purchase orders and a job description for an IT Data Specialist.  Thus, the board ultimately did not approve, and postponed for a later meeting, the remaining items originally on the consent agenda, including the proposed management raises.  
Public Comment - This is the portion of the agenda where any member of the audience can speak to any issue not on the agenda.  Staff members, parents, students and community members can all speak.  Comments are limited to three minutes and the board cannot engage in dialogue because these items are not on the posted agenda.  
Discussion/Action Items - These items are listed in order on the agenda and are discussed one at a time.  The public may comment on Discussion/Action items after staff make their presentation and the board asks their initial questions.  Last evening there were several interesting discussions with lots of great supporting data.  If you would like more information about the items below, please see the full agenda at:   http://tamusd.csbaagendaonline.net/cgibin/WebObjects/tamusdeAgenda.woa/wa/showMeeting. 
Underlined items in the agenda are links to the full reports given by staff and also include relevant background information.
  • TUHSD Data Snapshot - The Senior Director of Curriculum and Instruction, presented a variety of student achievement data including state test results, SAT and ACT data, Advanced Placement program enrollments and test results as well as information about how many of our students persist and finish college within six years of enrollment.  Clicking on the link above can access the data accompanying the presentation.
  • Student Assessment Plan - The board heard an overview of the assessments currently used in TUHSD as well as some ideas about additional assessments that could be added in the future to gather more information about the proficiency and growth of our students and the effectiveness of our programs.  This was a discussion only, and the issue will be a future topic of conversation with staff, students and parents.
  • Tobacco Policy - The board discussed an update to the tobacco policy to include language prohibiting the use or possession of electronic cigarettes at our schools.
  • Bond Projects and Budgets - The board voted to approve what we believe will be the final projects and budgets for the 2001 and 2006 bonds.  Final projects include safety netting between baseball fields and tennis courts, installation of solar energy devices and restroom facilities on the Redwood football field.
  • Letter from Board of Trustees to Community - The board voted to take this item off of the agenda. 

Update Reports - There are two sections in the agenda that include update reports from a variety of staff and trustees.  Student trustees have an opportunity early in the meeting to give a report about what is happening at their sites.  Then, at the end of the agenda, the Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Facilities, the Associate Superintendent for Educational and Personnel Services and the Superintendent give brief reports of upcoming events.  Finally, trustees report any pertinent issues from district and county committees on which they serve.
Adjournment - Meetings end upon adjournment.
Please do not hesitate to contact me or any member of the Board of Trustees with questions about how board meetings work or about this meeting in particular.  As always, your input is welcome and appreciated.

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