"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by...any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward [district], it is a belief against all experience." --Thomas Jefferson

Monday, April 18, 2011

USBA Convention 2011, Part 1: Open Meetings and USBA

NOTE: Jan. 6-8, 2011, the Utah School Boards Association held it annual convention.  I will update you with multiple blogs on this convention.  The convention was held at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City.  Board members were allowed to stay over the two nights at the hotel, but I decided to commute to and from.

USBA Convention 2011, Post 1

USBA Business Session, Friday, Jan. 7, 2011

Nominations were taken for the 2nd Vice President of the USBA. The way it works is that members vote for 2nd VP. There are also a 1st VP and a President (and a past president). After 4 years (I think), the President's term is filled and the 1st VP takes the President's place, the 2nd VP takes the 1st VP's place, and another vote for 2nd VP is held. The 2nd VP, Peggy Jo Kennett, was unopposed. In her remarks she listed four reasons for public education:

  1. Protect Freedom
  2. Develop a sense of community
  3. Create a civic dialog
  4. Keep the poorest from being manipulated and the richest from being lazy 
Also, we were told only 25% of the operating funds for USBA are taken from dues (paid, at least in ASD, by the taxpayers). The remaining 75% are for programs, e.g. the New Board Member workshop, and services that USBA provides to its members.

We, then, broke into regions to elect delegates to the USBA Board of Directors and Delegates at Large. Since ASD forms the entire region, our regional director is John Burton. Debbie Taylor and Paula Hill are delegate-at-large and the alternate delegate, respectively. 

Class 1: Immigration Law
The immigration law class had a presentation by Utah Senator Luz Robles and Utah Representative Stephen Sandstrom. Both Sen. Robles and Rep. Sandstrom had immigration bills that were addressed in the legislative session.

Class 2: Open Meetings
State Law requires that board members take an Open Meeting class annually. This course satisfied that requirement. It was taught by Brinton Burbidge (of Burbidge & White, LLC--ASD's attorneys).

Essentially, a public meeting is convened by the board president, appropriate notification (at least 24 hours) is given for non-emergency meetings, and a simple majority (4 of our 7) of the board must be present to conduct business. Electronic meetings are acceptable, but there must be some location publicized where the public is able to go and monitor the meeting. (Interestingly, a Massachusetts court case has ruled that an exchange of email among all the board members of a district was a meeting, and violated open meeting laws because no notice was given.) Written minutes and a recording of the meeting must be kept and the recording must be available to the public within 3 business days.

A closed session of a meeting may be held, if 2/3 of those present (and one must always have a quorum) vote in the open session to hold a closed session. The reason and the location for the closed session must be publicly announced (and recorded), as well as the vote, by name, of each board member on the closed session. Closed session may be held for one or more of the following reasons:
  1. Discussion of the character, professional competence, or health of an individual
  2. Strategy sessions to discuss collective bargaining
  3. Strategy sessions to discuss pending or reasonably imminent litigation
  4. Strategy sessions to discuss the purchase, exchange or lease of real property when public discussion would disclose the value of the property or prevent the board from completing the transaction on the best possible terms
  5. Strategy sessions to discuss the sale of real property when a) see above section on value b) board has previously given notice of the sale, and c) the terms of the sale are publicly disclosed prior to board approval of the sale
  6. Discussion of deployment of security personnel, devices, or systems
  7. Investigative proceedings regarding allegations of criminal conduct
Recordings must be kept of the closed session, except if the meeting is held to discuss the character, etc. of an individual or deployment of security personnel or devices. However, the presiding officer must sign a sworn statement affirming that this was the sole purpose of the closed meeting. 

To see Utah Law, click here. Utah also has a public notice website, where all public meetings should be listed. You can subscribe on that website to receive notifications of meetings that interest you.

My Take: Public Meetings
Since this class is required by law, I found it especially beneficial. Mr. Burbidge, the instructor, joked that his classes are always well-attended...because they are mandatory. I saw why certain things were done in our closed session meetings and feel that I will be able to uphold the law much better with this new information. In one of my previous posts, someone asked about the ability to obtain the recording of the closed session. During our class, Mr. Burbridge said that those closed session recordings would be available only to a court of law or to a judge. So far, I think our school board is following the open meeting law procedures correctly. I now understand why our Board President has had to refocus board members back on topic during a closed session when our discussion strayed off-track. This is precisely her responsibility and she must sign a legal statement guaranteeing our proper conduct. Now that I am properly informed, I will be better able to support her in that endeavor.

Follow up note: 
Another thing I have noticed is how agenda items are classified.  I need to do some more research on Robert's Rules--so any of you parliamentarians, please comment and educate me.  As I understand it, action items require a motion to take some form of action.  After the motion and a second, then there can be discussion.  Discussion items are available to discuss free from motions or any other real constraints.  However, it is required that items be classified so the public knows which items will be voted on and which will not.  I have also seen Discussion with Possible Action items before.  The final classification is something called a 'Consent Agenda'.  These are a group of items that are mostly routine and don't often require debate or discussion or that have had debate or discussion previously. 

No comments:

Post a Comment