School board member writes about last weeks brouhaha

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dear editor,

The issue at last Thursday&8217;s meeting of the Selma City Schools Board was not finances; it was the conducting of meetings in accordance with law and the board&8217;s own policies.

According to state law and school board policy, no individual school board member has power when acting outside the parameters of the entire board. The only time that a board of education has power is when it votes together in a legally called, public meeting. One or even several members have no power on their own and cannot alter policies and procedures to suit their own plans.

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Items to be placed on a meeting agenda are discussed during the committee meeting prior to the board meeting. At the start of each board meeting, the board votes on acceptance of the agenda presented.

Last Thursday, the board voted to accept the agenda. However, part of the way through the meeting, the president and vice president tried to impose changes of the agenda upon the board. In so doing they violated the board&8217;s own policies.

Changes must be voted upon by the entire board. If, by majority vote, it decides to alter policies and procedures, they are changed. If not, they remain unchanged, and no one, including the president, may arbitrarily change them.

The governance of our schools is a grassroots democratic process. Laws, policies and procedures are created to establish and maintain this process. Once these laws, policies and procedures are violated, the democratic process is impeded.

In the American democratic form of government, the concept of separation of powers is incorporated to assure that no person, or group of persons, can usurp power. Therefore, the board president cannot take actions in violation of policy or that are not sanctioned by a majority vote of board members.

In reaction to the president trying to illegally alter the agenda, a motion was made and seconded to overrule the president. Six members voted in the affirmative. All of this is in compliance with policy and procedures. They then adjourned the meeting and left.

The effectiveness of any organization begins at the top. If the board cannot govern itself and follow policy, how can we expect the rest of the school system to be governed as it should be?

During my first weeks of serving on the Selma City Schools Board,

John Williams gave me some advice. He told me to, &8220;read and learn the board policies; to always follow them. They are the legal documents by which we govern the school system.&8221; That advice is as pertinent today as it was when he offered it.

My suggestion is that we all, even Mr. Williams, follow his advice so we can eliminate constant distractions and begin to carry out the responsibilities with which we are charged. For the sake of students, employees, parents and our community, the antics causing chaos must stop, and we must get on with the business of selecting a permanent superintendent.

Barbara Hiouas