Monday, August 4, 2008

Liveblog! LCSD Board Meeting, August 4th, 2008

9:17 Adjourn into Executive Session after Josh notes a two-hour meeting and a three-page agenda. AND NO BOMBSHELLS. AMAZING.

9:15 McUne sworn in on the spot. That is one weird oath. Room is oddly silent... there it goes... he gets applause.. Standing ovation, actually, as he walks up to the podium to take a seat.

9:13 Fisher: All of you would make great board members, picking is the hardest part.

Alexander: Move to appoint Russel McUne.

Fisher: Second.

Josh: Discussion? [For once I agree with Josh, hah - they should be talking before a motion is made]

Fisher: Thanks for answering all the questions.... you all answered them well.... but only member who I remember seeing is Russ..... he has reached out.....

Debi: I concur with Chris.

Josh: Russ contacted all four board members...

Fisher: Elections coming up.

Josh calls question - appoint Russell McUne to board in Sprenger's seat until the next election.

Vote is unanimous.

9:10 Jeff Sneddon.... live in Lacomb area.... interest around getting kids ready to get ready for workforce and world economy.... jobs being outsourced.... competing with larger nations with smarter kids.... how do we get our kids ready.....?

Fisher: Same questions.

Sneddon: I have attended three.... I have conflicts with the time... if selected, the board gets priority....

Sneddon: Highly important for board members to provide professional boundaries.... encourage problem-solving at the lowest level.... [he is speaking very quietly].

Sneddon: Board member must have as primary focus to put their own opinion to the side.... look at district overall, look at policy, etc.....

[He is giving short, well-prepared answers, but has the advantage of going last.]

Sneddon: Top three priorities are literacy.... reading is key for acquisition of other skills.... second is NCLB, it's an unfunded mandate, struggle to implement.... third is communication between board, district and community....

Fisher: Open mind?

Sneddon: Definitely open mind.... focus my ideals on where I would like to go.... being able for our kids to participate....definitely.

Josh: Thank you sir, appreciate all three of your time.

9:05 McUne: I have several kids.... am a physician... live near the edge of district boundary... work at Samaritan Albany now..... full time in emergency room.... desire to be on school board growing for many years..... parents went, always came home angry.... recall this, recall that.... [!].... education system is important..... I have two children who are special needs...... one pet issue is communication in district and on board around special education.... disappointed by AYP for special needs.... wife and I went to public schools..... like Oregon.

Fisher: Same questions....

McUne: Attend board meetings when I remember to request them off.... seven or eight in the last wife would know better [!].... already requested next twelve meeting days off....

Fisher: same second scenario.... what if you're asked for a favor?

McUne: Board's job is oversight.... had an issue with my child and an IEP.... got recommendation from Josh.... Josh said call Kelley.... got it solved quickly.... that's what chain of command is designed to do.... passing on to proper personnel mostly means to district office....

McUne: Presumably easy to separate family issues from professional issues.

Debi: Top 3?

McUne: AYP is important.... happy to see increased requirements for math and reading.... two, are our kids learning how to work in outside communities?.... impressed by cashier who counted out change without help.... three, continue to move the district forward and work with district office....

Fisher: Can you come in with an open mind?

McUne: Yes.... appreciate not being put on hot seat and picked at beginning of meeting... want to look at information.

Observation: How much can the board vary in the questions they ask each candidate?

8:49 Time to appoint a new board member! All three are in attendance.

P. Jay Jackson is up first. The audience got real quiet real quick.

Jackson: Desire to be on board.... grew up here.... Plainview class of '74... firefighter..... now have the opportunity and time to give back.... social degree in firefighting technology.... facilities services certification .... almost five years facilities service director of OSU Housing and Dining ... back as a construction project manager.... board for Rock Hill School Preservation.... trying to keep it short.... any questions?

Fisher: How many board meetings have you attended?

Jackson: Past five years, few, as I worked in Corvallis. Before that, a few. Keep up to date with newspapers.

Fisher: Question I'm going to ask all the candidates.... say you get a complaint about an issue from a member of the community that ends with "what can you do for me?"... how do you react?

Jackson: I can listen, take into consideration what their concerns are and then approach the proper person to pass on concerns. "Channel their issues."

Fisher: How do you deal with school district issues when they affect family/friends? I want to make sure you can separate yourself from the issues.

Jackson: As a business person, that's not a problem, especially when it comes to money.

Shimmin: What are the three top educational issues facing the school district.

Jackson: Loooooooooooong pause. His leg starts kicking under the table. He clearly was caught off guard with this one. Really fumbling, references state requirements, AYP, etc. "It was really simpler in the old days." Overall, the future of our children, making it in society, making sure our children have the tools they need to succeed... those are kind of the three top things.

Observation: The second two candidates get it easier, as they've seen the two hard questions. Total length of questioning of Jackson = under 5 minutes.

Josh: Moving on to McUne.

8:48 After some discussion, but not much, Fisher motions and Shimmin seconds to approve the remaining policies through the first reading only. The motion passes unanimously.

8:37 Rick: I don't understand the rolling contract bit; that seems wrong. Can the board change it? [I am paraphrasing, because Rick is making no sense.]

Discussion continues..... Kelley makes the point that the three-year rollover is also in Robinson's contract, and notes the board that can change the policy or the contract.

Surprisingly, nothing occurs - however, they will still have the second reading of the contract to make changes. Frankly, I'm surprised that no one thought to amend board policy to eliminate the rolling three-year contract. Maybe I missed it; maybe they figured out that the policy does not require rolling three-year contracts, but allows them.

8:30 Josh: Oregon Senate discussion around golden parachute - districts not allowed to buy out an administrator at more than the value of their contract.

No offense, Josh, I'm glad you know all about this, but all you're doing is bloviating. There was no question or requested change in anything you said.

On the other hand, Josh is coming across as pretty sharp tonight. His questions are pretty good and informed.

8:26 Kelley: If I may recommend a procedural change? Pass all the ones you don't want to see changes on, then deal with the remaining policies as they come.

Observation: Kelley's recommendation, to adopt and pass most of the policies on the first reading, both gets things done efficiently and deprives the board of an opportunity to further mess with most of the policies without extra effort. Shrewd.

Fisher motions, Alexander approves motion to adopt on first reading and waive second of all policies except GBEC, GBED, JO/IGBAB, CBC and IKF.

Motion passes unanimously.

Kelley is really driving the ship at this point.

8:21 Josh: Can I get things like this before the meeting? (Talking about school budget document.) Linda Darling: It's the same thing you already had, with one minor change regarding funds on hand.

8:17 Fisher moves, Alexander seconds the school boundary revision. Motion passes unanimously with no discussion.

8:15 Discussion around the request to approve the Reed School plan. Debi moves to approve, Fisher seconds. Fisher: Not voting until I see numbers. I want a cap on what the district will spend.

There is some confusion over what motion to make given Fisher's desire for a cap.

Josh is clearly aggravated, as is Fisher. Interestingly, neither seems to be terribly upset with each other. Maybe I'm wrong.

Kelley: Bring back a contract next month. Table for now. My apologies for not having [a contract] ready for you this month.

8:06 Debi makes motion to approve facilities plans, Chris seconds.

Rick: This is just, this is not for the tax?

Josh: This is a prerequisite for pursuing the tax.

Rick: How hard is this to change?

Motion passes unanimously.

8:03 Rick: Is there anything left of the bond money or the sale of properties?

8:00 Rick - can we table approval of the facilities master plans until after the hearing on the construction excise tax to get citizen input and approval?

Tilford: Apparently, many districts did not have public hearings on approval of the tax. I can contact those who did and see what happened.

Debi: Tax or no, we need to pass a plan, it's a state requirement. "I would recommend that we would approve it."

Chris: We need to pass a plan to at least keep up with current buildings.

[A side note - someone pointed out to me recently that Chris is very inarticulate when at the mic, and I think that's right. I wonder why that is, since I usually agree with most of what Chris says, but I bet he'd be more effective if he was more articulate.]

7:55 Josh clearly does not know how to pronounce Rynda Gregory's [the new Principal for Riverview] name. I don't either, but then again, I'm not the board chair. It would have looked really good if he had asked beforehand, though certainly this is the kind of mistake everyone makes. Call it the difference between good and great.

Lots of applause - two rounds, one for the hiring committee and one for the hire. Good stuff - all positive. Kelley is really talking her up, like it's a done deal. Nice move on his part - preempts any criticism.

Debi immediately moves to approve, Chris seconds, Josh fumbles name. No discussion. Motion to hire passes unanimously, and there is another round of applause. Damn, that's impressive.

Kelley notes that at the community presentation for Gregory there were a total of 45 or so people.

It really sounds like the process was stellar and everyone's happy about it.

7:52 Rick (for the first time tonight): Is there any reason we can't table the alternative education proposal? [coming on the heels of several questions by board members that Jan & Kelley can't answer.]

I believe it was tabled. Kelley asked for more information requests from board members.

Chris (also speaking for the first time tonight): I believe that the reason the district did not move forward with this three years ago was the possibility that it would hurt teachers, and the district was bargaining. [Waffles and says both that he is looking out for teachers and that the district needs to do everything possible to educate students.]

7:44 Josh: Why the change of heart since we declined to participate in this program several years ago? It seems to be bringing in a lot of money over in Scio, where they implemented it. [Agenda item E1, Alternative Education Program].

Jan: This program is actually run through the University if Phoenix. [WHAT?!]

Kelley: Can't answer that question off the top of my head.

Jan: Can find more information before action is taken.

7:41 Kelley keeps referring to him as Dr. Robinson. For some reason, I find this funny. Now arguing that new board member should not be asked to vote immediately after getting on board w/out information in packet. That was rationale. Josh agrees.

Question: Since Rick doesn't read a lot of what's in the packet anyway, does that.... ah, nevermind.

7:39 Resolving a question about attorney's fees as asked by an audience member last month. [See agenda item "GSPC Costs and Ruling"]. Debi wants a copy of the filed grievance and reports. Kelley: "Yes. ma'am. I'll make sure you get it right away."

7:30 Whoever followed Jan (I should know this) is covering the AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) stuff that came out of NCLB. LHS and Seven Oak did not meet AYP. Apparently there were

Longer-term readers will know I despise NCLB, especially the AYP part.

Josh: Have we ever met AYP? At LHS? Never?

un-IDed woman: Sanctions unlikely.

A few more questions, some confusion, etc. Just an update.

7:25 Jan Zarate: "Writing is not just an issue in Lebanon. It's not just an issue in Oregon. It's an issue across the nation." YES IT IS. GOOD FOR HER.

7:20 OK, this pace is exhausting. I might slow down and leave a few things out. A quick note on liveblogging: The entries are in reverse chronological order. The oldest stuff is at the bottom.

7:15 Super's Report. Kelley: "Doc Robinson" is on vacation this week. Currently unaware of any license or registration concerns at either LCSD or Sand Ridge. Possibility of late hire questions, but "well on the path of 100% compliance." Cool.

Second item: Charter School Resolution.

Josh: with resignation of Jay, resolution becomes a moot point.

Kelley: Resolution now unnecessary, assuming Jackson's resignation is immediately effective.

Josh: Resolution was not to be voted on, just a point of discussion. Attorney had revised.

Third item: Jan Zarate to talk about plan and district goals. On the agenda as "Goals plan."

Zarate: Tonight, look at one (of three) goals... she's having the usual trouble with the powerpoint. Its like an unwritten law of technology, that it works just fine until one is in front of a crowd. The goal:

"Student self-advocacy to ensure that each student is work-force and/or college-ready."

Good stuff.

7:13 Consent agenda. Josh has corrections on minutes. Pretty standard. After a few seconds, Chris motions and Debi seconds to approve with Josh's modifications. Motion passes unanimously.

7:12 Connie Schmidt. Encourages board to adopt resolution re: PIE, but not to get rid of Sand Ridge. Instead, to get PIE to comply with state, even if they don't like the requirements; "take the step tonight to avoid the very real threat of decreased funding;" third, approve resolution "because I want to tell my boys...that this board believes following the law is important."

7:10 Brian Bray corrects Mr. Gaston regarding the new website.

7:07 Ralph Gaston(?) Questions for board regarding website and agenda, or whoever is responsible. Says website has not been updated for a year. I checked, and the new site is updated through June. Complaining about inability to find board policies, etc.... it's all on the new website. I checked. You can too.

Makes point that board members should take office immediately - wants the new board member to vote on tonight's agenda items.

7:05 Lonna Harris - LACE President. Advocating for P. Jay Jackson to be on the board as Sprenger's replacement.

She is quoting from his application, noting that he has children in the community, his demeanor, etc. Stumbling a bit, but ultimately very clear.

7:05 Audience comments. Jay Jackson is up first - and not in a suit.

"Public education should be about the students, not the adults."

"The charter school is committed to making the [opportunity for education] available to every child."

"no adult should allow themselves to be an obstacle."

"I resign my position."

His voice is breaking as he thanks everyone. He's quite serious.

7:01 Josh calls the meeting to order and calls for the flag salute. As is normal for me, I don't stand.... and keep blogging.

6:59 PM Well, this looks like it's going to work. We'll see if there are fireworks tonight or not. Among the ..

... OK, Rick Alexander just came over and tried to look at what I was doing. I closed the laptop to talk to him.

He was very nice, and very polite. "I believe in democracy," he said. "The more people participate, the better off we are."



Tourist said...

Well done, I am told I know a few people, I will look into getting you a seat at the press table. I hope you had fun sitting next to Brian, he is always good for a story or two, but he really needs to change his outlook on Apple. I was curious that during the discussion on the failing reading and writing AYP scores, no one asked, how specifically the district plans to fix the issues. Yes, a generic overview was done, but in order to start to work on these complex issues,a specific and systematic plan must be developed and scaffolded appropiatley across grades.

Dennis said...

Tourist, thanks for the offer, but I don't want a seat at the press table.

Tourist said...

The woman's name that followed Jan, is Laurie Glazener. She just sort of quickly went up there before being introduced, and I am not sure an introduction was ever done. P.S. I will cancel the request for your seat - cheers

Bernstein said...

Rick Alexander didn't know you were live blogging until after the meeting. He just wanted to meet the famous Dennis.

Dennis said...

He may not have known I was liveblogging, but he was awfully interested in what was the on the screen of my computer when he came over.

Like I said, he was polite. The bit about democracy was apropos of nothing, or, if there was an intended message buried in there, I missed it.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Rick was familiar with liveblogging, until he learned you were doing it. He probably was just curious. He is sincere about believing in democracy and the more people are involved, the better, even if they disagree or disrespect him, as you generally do.

Dennis said...

I can't actually decide if I think he's sincere anymore or not.

If Mr. Alexander believes in democracy, why does he constantly sandbag the public by adding things to the agenda at the last second?

Why does he give the appearance of having made decisions behind closed doors, often making motions before there has been time for deliberation or discussion?

Even with the appointment of Russ McUne, Mr. Alexander did not allow more than a few seconds for discussion before making a motion.

In some ways, I can understand how Mr. Alexander may think of himself as a proponent of citizen involvement and democracy, but his actions often betray those values; the only possible exception I can think of is if he informs his supporters of his plans beforehand, but that just means it's democratic only for people that agree with him, which is not democratic at all, really.

That's one run-on sentence.

Anonymous said...

Not all of us see him as sandbagging the public by adding things to the agenda that he's decided need adding (when he was chair). It's being responsive to the current situation. good grief.

Now you are implying they all agreed in advance who they were going to pick for the new board member, just because Rick made a motion quickly to select the guy they picked? good grief with a horizontal head shake.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if they agreed about who they were selecting ahead of time, but they sure all seemed to have their minds made up ahead of time. At least that was implied when they all said McUne had called and spoken with each of them at some time before the meeting.

Dennis said...

I'm talking specifically about adding things to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting, and not earlier. And not when Alexander was chair - I mean in the past year or so.

Adding things to the agenda days beforehand allows the public to become aware of those things and make their choice to participate based on them, which is something Alexander claims he wants. Not providing the public that chance - intentionally not providing the public that chance - is anti-democratic, not pro-democratic. And don't tell me he only added things at the last second because that's when they occurred to him. He's smarter than that.

Dennis said...

The other thing I want to address is the McUne bit.

Even if the board members had all independently made up their minds before they voted - which is fine - making the motion within seconds of opening the floor for discussion adds to the APPEARANCE that this was decided before the meeting, either independently or not. And since the board is supposed to make those sorts of decisions in public, at the meeting, making it look like the decision was made somewhere else is not good, especially when they had the freakin' candidates come up and answer questions. What was the point of that if they already knew they were voting for McUne? I know if I was P. Jay Jackson or Jeff Sneddon, I'd feel like it was rigged right about now. The Superintendent is not the only person in the district who needs to think about public relations.

(As a side note, not talking to the board members beforehand is arguably a large oversight on the part of Sneddon and Jackson. On the other hand, I have this feeling that the process used was not all that formal or thought out.)

Besides, this would have been a good opportunity for them to walk through their decision-making processes in some level of detail and show the public they are capable of making good, considered decisions. I'm not saying they didn't; I'm saying they looked like they didn't, and that the impression they leave the public with matters.

Anonymous said...

Well most members of congress know how they are going to vote before a vote is taken! To not ponder pros/cons of the candidates in advance would be ludicrous. It may be the decision wasn't final for all or some of them until the questions were answered, but I wouldn't see it as a crime to have an opinion about who one favored (having reflected) before the meeting!

Frankly, I think Rick can't win with you, Dennis, no matter what he does or doesn't do.

Dennis said...

Sorry - that was rather terrible word choice on my part. That sentence should have read "Even if the board members had all independently made up their minds before they started the discussion..."

You're right. It's generally a good idea to make up one's mind before voting =)

If a school board is supposed to be a deliberative body, making a motion to approve one candidate less than ten seconds after Josh thanked the last guy and opened the floor is a failure. There's not even the appearance of deliberation. Even if Alexander knew who he was voting for, he could have at least waited to see what others had to say, no?

Anonymous said...

I don't think they should have aksed each person the same question either. It did make it more difficult for Jackson, but at the same time, because McUne and Sneddon had time to think about their answers it left us wondering if they would have given the same answer if they were first. I thought that was just weird. In fact, I am curious if that is the way things like this are typically done.

Anonymous said...

If others had wanted to deliberate, they could have declined to second his motion and maybe asked additional questions. Do you think that there, in front of them, they would deliberate the positives and negatives of each of them?

Come on, Dennis, you just have decided you don't like or respect Rick, so you will be critical of damn near whatever he does.

Dennis said...

Anon @ 8:11, I would have said the same thing about any board member who made such a motion without any discussion, for the same reasons.

I don't particularly like the fact that the board barely deliberated all - and that's on the entire board, not just Alexander.

I understand where you're coming from with the comment about discussing the positives and negatives in front of them, but to be frank, that's life on a public board. This school board should not deliberate behind closed doors and appear only to announce their decision unless it is required by law. No, it might not have been comfortable for the candidates, or even many in the audience, but I still think it would have been best. And besides, there are ways to go about it that don't involve making negative comments about the candidates. They simply could have said which candidate they preferred and the positive reasons why.

I think Mr. Alexander's behavior as a board member has been atrocious, and I think I've been clear in laying out my reasons why. However, I stand by my offer to have a beer with him, metaphorically or otherwise =)

Anonymous said...

Well, Dennis, would you want to have a beer with someone who had trashed you so consistently? I wouldn't. Maybe Rick would, I don't know. It seems kinda arrogant on your part to suggest you get to rip someone apart but then "be willing" to have a beer with them.

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