Other stuff did happen at the Board meeting. But this was quite fascinating (and confusing). It was like watching a long tennis volley, back and forth with different points.
I will say that I think everyone made good points but clearly, the policy is being viewed through different lens. I'm not sure anyone is wrong in this case.
What occurred was this; Smith-Blum had put a motion to take this Intro motion of 1620B off this agenda. One big issue was that this Board meeting had been put off because of the snow last week so the next Board meeting is next week (and not two weeks from now).
(To note: NO ONE said they did not want this policy or asked for it to be tabled indefinitely.)
I'll go thru the whole thing because what was said should be parsed out. There was some friction but I did not see anger or animosity. (Indeed, the next item, they voted unanimously and later, all enjoyed a good laugh over a Patu miscue.)
It got started a little early when Director Patu, clearly upset, brought it up during the Director comments. I think she felt she had been disrespected (she said it was unfair to accuse directors or ridicule them publicly). I can't disagree with that statement. After all, DeBell got the ball rolling last week and the media just jumped on it.
She said she felt she was being told to be quiet and not ask any questions. She said they were there oversee the Superintendent and that she had many community members asking her for information or for help. She felt that as an elected official her hands were being tied.
So when they go to the actual discussion since it was Smith-Blum's motion, she was asked to speak on it.
She said that collaboration is key. She also pointed out that there is already a procedure around this governance (passed last June) with many of the same elements. So it already exists and working on the specifics of how to carry it out was still work all seven directors need to do together. She also explained how moving it to later Feb. (with approval in early March) would still meet the timeline for superintendent finalists.
Sherry then talked about the timeline and her concern over having this done before the superintendent search was underway. She also said the policy was not about "what they do" but "how they do it." She recommended they have a work session over the next week to work on it and then vote next week.
She also said they needed to have the basics in place for the next superintendent.
I will just point out that I heard none, zero, zip of this concern during the last superintendent search. And who did we end up with? The most control-freak superintendent ever. (Who was constantly tried to gain more control and clearly she didn't need it codified...she just took it.)
Peaslee then spoke. She said they already a policy in place. She said she looked at half a dozen districts and none of them had a 3-page policy followed by a procedure. She said it needed to be clean and clear and devoid of bias. She said there was no need to rush and they needed to get it right.
Martin-Morris spoke up and said he was "intrigued" by this notion of bias. But he went on to express concern over the amount of work facing the Board and that "kicking the can down the road" wouldn't help. He said they needed a "protocol" or else the policy had no teeth. (Yes, echos of Charlie and the issue of policies that the Superintendent doesn't follow and yet no enforcement from the Board.)
He also was worried about the timeline with the superintendent search.
Betty then spoke about her feeling that this policy was almost like "the weight of law" to her and that's how seriously she takes it." She said she felt it was important that they ALL agree with the wording of the policy.
Harium said he thought they could get it done in a work session because it was just "word-smithing." He then made a verbal slip that several of us noticed and had to smile. He said they had "get back to managing the district." I thought the Board didn't manage the district; that's a superintendent's job.
Marty weighed in with what is such a pleasingly calm and thoughtful manner. She said, "I was initially interested in this because I see it as a vehicle for us to have real chance to come together as a group and talk about where each of us stands. Then I looked more at it and I began to see it as addressing a problem and fixing something. But what's broken? I haven't been on the Board long enough to feel broken and we are in formation as a Board." She said they needed to find out "who they are as a Board" and create a vision with the superintendent.
She also said she appreciated the need for urgency.
Sherry suggested they Intro it tonight but put off the vote (because of the snow-delayed Board meeting) until Feb. 15 (3 weeks off). This sounded plausible (and kudos to Director Carr for trying to find a compromise).
But Michael said that they already had a motion and that would have to be offered as an amendment to the motion (but oddly, that didn't happen.)
Kay then said this: "I appreciate what Sherry said and I looked at the calendar. Tomorrow we have 2 hours of work on budget, so I carefully looked at the calendar before I crafted this motion."
What was interestng is that she talked about needing more time and that perhaps they needed to reach out to senior staff for input. When she said that I thought, "Huh, that's a thought. If staff feels overburdened from Board requests, input from senior staff on what would work best for them might be something to ask."
She also said she had benchmarked 25 urban districts and only 4 have this kind of procedure. She said we are really breaking new ground here.
DeBell, clearly irritated by this point, had his say.
"This work was authorized at the retreat in December. We talked about multiple governance issues and the proposition to have the Ex Ctm work on it. I do believe minutes reflect that*. As chair of the Ex Ctm, I thought important to work on. I
want to note that the Ex Ctm is ultimately responsible about this kind of work and it is the jurisdiction of Committee".
*There is a bit of disagreement about whether this discussion actually made to the list of work for the Board this year.
He then said, "I shared with Holly F. and Erin the first draft and then did the first rewrite."
Okay, but two things. One, why did he share this first with staff and not any other Board members? Why would Holly and Erin be expected to work over a holiday break?
Two, why was the first Board member he shared it with Sherry and not Kay or Betty who are on the Ex. Ctm.? If it's their work, why not send it to them first? I believe the first that any other Board members saw the policy was about at the third or fourth draft.
I was surprised but Dr. Enfield chose this point to jump in. She said:
"I appreciate that every Board member is giving this serious thought. Last spring when governance policies were discussed and adopted was when realized we needed to figure out how to operationalize these policies." She added (almost as if for effect) "It is sorely needed."
So clearly she has been feeling aggrieved about Board requests even before any Board elections.
Michael then stated that you can't just go to a website to check policy (something of a dig at Smith-Blum's work) and said Bellevue and Kent were in the process of writing this kind of policy. He then said:
"The work environment is strongly affected by how Board interacts, collectively rather than individually. I agree with Sherry's Feb. 15th date. Note that taking an item off an agenda means we could table it and postpone it. We need to reassure them that we take responsibility seriously. "
I am assuming the "them" are the prospective superintendent candidates. And that leads me to wonder a couple of things?
Is he still holding out for Enfield to stay? Because I'm seeing a lot of signs that others up the food chain are thinking this way. Either Enfield has signaled this to them or they are just wistfully hoping for something that isn't going to happen.
Some Board members already have some candidate in mind who has signaled an issue with Board/Superintendent interactions.
Kay again mentioned wanting to craft the policy more and seek input from senior staff. She said the budget was a priority for tomorrow's work session.
Michael again seemed irritated and said this is the Board's work. (Okay but Kay is only suggesting input from staff since access to staff seems to be a major problem on both sides. It's not a crazy thought on Kay's part.) He said there had to be a clear line on governance and management.
Then he looked around and called for the vote. It was 4-3.
I believe this issue is of particular relevance to all of them but maybe in varying degrees and obviously, from a difference level of urgency to get it done.
If this is the key to how the Board interacts with staff and the superintendent, then yes, I think it fair to make sure all seven people currently on the Board agree with it.
As I said, it was tense but then they all moved on, voted several more times, laughed and got through the meeting.
They are seven intelligent and thoughtful people; they will get this done and they will move on.