The Governing Board prescribes and enforces policies and procedures for the governance of the schools, not inconsistent with law or rules prescribed by the state board of education. The superintendent (such is the case with Dr. Jacob) uses the structure established by the Board to manage operations on a day-to-day basis. Although the Superintendent may suggest changes to policies (and in some cases correct Parliamentary procedures), only the Board as a whole has the legal authority to adopt policy. However, there is a problem with the number of board members that sit on the Cartwright School District (CSD), because there are five of them. When one board member is not present, then gridlock occurs with a 2 against 2 vote. Last night, Lydia Hernandez, board member, summoned a Motion that would encourage accountability and transparency when it comes to the lagging attendance record of board members who are not present to vote on important CSD issues. Pedro Lopez, President of the Board, was absent, and members of CSD suffered gridlock. After the meeting, I spoke to a couple of people who are part of the executive team, but they didn’t know why Lopez was a no-show.
Lydia Hernandez, board member of the Cartwright School District put a Motion for a vote that would recommend a policy review in an effort to encourage board member attendance. Absences are preventing progress at Cartwright.
According to the NSBA effective school boards commit to a vision of high expectations for student achievement to include the following:
- Have strong shared beliefs and values about students’ ability to learn and of the system and its ability to teach all children at high levels.
- Are accountability driven.
- Have a collaborative relationship with staff and the community.
- Are data-savvy.
- Align and sustain resources to meet district goals.
- Lead as a united team with the superintendent.
- Take part in team development and training.
Arizona law has certain regulations regarding school attendance that range between truancy to excessive absences and more. If we set a standard for our students attending Arizona schools, it ought to begin at the highest levels within the Governing Board. Board members ought to be present at school board meetings, and if they cannot be present, they ought to be transparent and explain to the public and fellow board members why they are not present. Is there a reasonable explanation why the CSD President of the Board did not attend last night’s meeting, or dial in? According to CSD: The Governing Board shall hold a regular meeting at least once each month during the regular school year and may hold other meetings as often as called. The second (2nd) Wednesday of each month during the regular school year is designated as the regular Board Meeting date.
This isn’t the first we have heard of absent board presidents and board politics because Gilbert Public Schools have had similar issues – but I also don’t think it is much to ask for an elected Board Member to attend the “at least once per month regular meeting” either. Title I schools in Arizona have a high population of Chicanos and Latinos and more of us want to know why urban schools sometimes suffer more than the schools that are in affluent areas.
The following “Governing Board Expectations of the Board” were adopted at the February 22, 2012 Governing Board Meeting:
1. Honor and respect - The Governing Board of the Cartwright School District #83 will commit to honoring and respecting the decisions made by the majority.
2. Honor code of conduct, ethics, and operating protocol - The Governing Board of the Cartwright School District #83 will commit to honoring the code of conduct, ethics and operating protocol.
3. Be engaged, prepared and attentive at Board Meetings - The Governing Board of the Cartwright School district #83 will commit to being engaged, prepared and attentive at Board Meetings.
4. Increase visibility on school campuses and at special events - The Governing Board of the Cartwright School District #83 will increase its visibility on School Campuses and at special events.
To prevent gridlock votes, members of the board should refer to the Expectations adopted on February 22, 2012, specifically with regard to being engaged and attentive at Board Meetings. More importantly, a level of respect to all fellow board member colleagues and the executive team ought to be implemented by sending a simple written email regarding the absent purpose from the member who cannot attend.
If community gridlock continues to take place in Title I Arizona schools, it may be time to submit a bill for transparency and accountability reasons that will emulate the below School Board policy/guideline:
Absent Board members may attend a regular or special meeting by electronic means if the member is absent because of work, a family emergency, or the member's military service. If a board member is absent due to military service, he/she may participate electronically as often as he/she is able to do so. However, a board member may not participate electronically more than two (2) times per year for absences due to work and/or family emergencies.
The following requirements apply to all electronic attendance, regardless of the reason for the member's absence:
1. A quorum of the Board must be physically present at the meeting in order for any member to attend electronically.
2. Any member wishing to participate electronically must do so using technology which allows the Chair to visually identify the member.
3. The responsibility for the connection lies with the member wishing to participate electronically. No more than three (3) attempts to connect shall be made, unless the Board chooses to make additional attempts.
Work Related Absence
The following requirements apply to electronic attendance due to a work related absence:
1. The Board member must be absent from the county due to work.
2. The member wishing to participate must give the Chair and director at least five (5) days’ notice prior to the meeting of the member's desire to participate electronically.
The following requirement applies to electronic attendance due to a family emergency:
1. The member must be absent due to the hospitalization of the member or the death or hospitalization of the member's spouse, father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, step-son, step-daughter, father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law.
School board members are responsible for extensive pivotal action in all areas that affect students and staff in their schools. Some roles and responsibilities are unspoken, but it appears there is a need for some sort of attendance mandate. On a side note: Personally I think a candidate running for a school board position shouldn’t be in the race if their interests are not 100% focused in the betterment of Title I schools. But those are just my “dos centavos.”