Consent agenda use has been consistent
The responsibility of the local board of education is to set policies that will ensure that children will graduate from high school having mastered all of the educational requirements they will need to become productive members of the community. All seven unpaid members of the De Soto USD 232 Board of Education meet twice a month, in public, with the superintendent and appropriate staff members to discuss policy and to approve those functions of the district, which are required by law.
At the beginning of each public meeting, the board reviews an item referred to as the consent agenda. Some of the items that appear in this section of the agenda on a regular basis are the agenda to be discussed at the meeting, minutes of the previous meeting, all personnel recommendations (hiring, resignations, non-renewal), payment of all bills, changes to previously approved contracts (change orders), student handbooks, easements by public utilities, purchases exceeding $20,000, contracts with outside organizations, school calendar, construction bids, and student field trips.
A board member can remove any item from the consent agenda for any reason. These reasons may include further discussion, request for additional information, or to vote on the item independent of the other consent agenda items in order to have the vote recorded as an individual item in the minutes.
The consent agenda is used for items that require the informed consent of the board prior to a vote. These items have an overriding board policy and administrative rules which direct the process to be used when performing the activity. These items would be part of the day-to-day operation of the district, which is the responsibility of the superintendent and her staff. The board does not participate in the daily running of the district because that is not its responsibility. It is required to provide oversight in consultation with its only employee, the superintendent.
One of the concerns addressed in our April 18 meeting surrounded the late change to the consent agenda's "personnel recommendations." Some seemed to think this was a change in the way board business is normally conducted. I have checked our public records and of the 17 regular board meetings this school year the agenda itself has been modified prior to the meeting 13 times. Of those 13 times, the personnel recommendations have been modified 12 times prior to the meeting.
Additionally, the agenda is regularly modified at the start of the board meeting either at the request of a board member or by the superintendent. The reason for this goes back to the fact that the board only meets officially twice a month and the district business continues on a daily basis. The board cannot hold up the business of the district. It has historically instructed that all information known up to and including the day of the meeting, will be included in the agenda. That means when an individual accepts a district position or resigns a position on the day of the meeting, the personnel recommendations to the board will need to be modified.
Board members are always notified of changes and a printed copy of the changed document is always provided to board members to review when they arrive at the meeting. It is the responsibility of each elected board member to know what they are voting on when the motion is made. If they have not had a chance to review the document they can either request a delay in the vote until later in the meeting, or as they are instructed in the training they receive when they become a board member, they should abstain from voting.
Our board has now added a further opportunity to review changes made to items on the consent agenda. If a change occurs on the day of the board meeting, the document that has been modified will automatically be pulled from the consent agenda and moved under the appropriate heading on the agenda. This will allow all board members an additional opportunity to review the document before a vote.
(Sandy Thierer is president of the De Soto USD 232 Board of Education for the 2005-2006 school year).