However, last night when Board Member Flemma asked to be recognized for comment, he was told by Board President Luker that he could not speak because he did not submit his item to her and Superintendent Nole for approval to appear on the agenda four (4) days prior to the meeting as required by board policy. Ms. Luker explained that "Other Business" is merely the time for Superintendent Nole to bring up items for discussion that occurred between the time of the agenda and the meeting.
Until last evening, board members have routinely brought up items under "Other Business". Ms. Luker even brought up an item under "Other Business" at the May 27, 2014 board meeting. We will get back to her item at that meeting in another blog.
While it may be board policy that all agenda items have to be run by the board president and school superintendent at least four (4) days prior to the meeting, nowhere in the policies could we find where "Other Business" is exclusively time for the Superintendent’s discussion items or that board members could not bring up an item for discussion unless the school superintendent gave his okay.
For clarification, we consulted the school board bylaws which are the written rules for conduct of the school board. Likewise, we could find nothing in the Bylaws of the Board of Education regarding Ms. Luker’s explanation of "Other Business".
What we did find in the board’s bylaws was:
BYLAWS OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION – Page 14So since the board’s by-laws are silent on the subject of what qualifies as "Other Business" on the school board agenda and/or whether board members can discuss matters that have not been “blessed” by the school board president or school superintendent, we followed the directive in the school's bylaws and consulted Roberts Rules of Order Revised which states:
J. Parliamentary Procedure
Unless otherwise provided in the Board's Bylaws, the Board shall conduct all of its meetings in accord with Robert's Rules of Order Revised.
An agenda is essentially a program or listing of the events and items of business that will come before the meeting. It may be a detailed program covering several meetings in a session, or it may be a short list of the items of business to be handled in a routine board meeting. The agenda may (but doesn't have to) indicate the hour for each event, or it may just show the total time allotted to each item.
Robert’s Rules has also has a FAQ:
The agenda may be adopted (that is, be made binding on the meeting), or it may simply be a guide to keep the meeting on track. Adopting your agenda is sometimes a good idea because it gets everybody in agreement with the meeting plan at the beginning of the meeting.
Question 14: How can I get an item on the agenda for a meeting?To the best of our knowledge, the school board has never adopted the board president’s agenda at the start of the meeting; therefore, Robert’s Rules say it is a proposed agenda, a guide, that can be amended by any member.
For a proposed agenda to become the official agenda for a meeting, it must be adopted by the assembly at the outset of the meeting.
At the time that an agenda is presented for adoption, it is in order for any member to move to amend the proposed agenda by adding any item that the member desires to add, or by proposing any other change.
It is wrong to assume, as many do, that the president “sets the agenda.” It is common for the president to prepare a proposed agenda, but that becomes binding only if it is adopted by the full assembly, perhaps after amendments as just described. [RONR (11th ed.), p. 372, ll. 24-35; see also p. 16 of RONRIB.]
We decided to check out other local school districts to see how they handle discussions of board members for items not listed on their agenda.
Sauquoit Valley Central School has an agenda item “Miscellaneous Topics” that according to meeting minutes appears to be the time for board members to make comments not listed on the agenda. Interestingly, they also have a Public Comment section at the beginning and the end of each board meeting.
Whitesboro Central School has an item called “Discussion” that likewise appears to be a time for board members to discuss items not on the agenda. They also have a Public Comment section at the beginning and the end of each board meeting.
Clinton Central School has an item on the agenda called “Questions by Board of Education” which is self-explanatory. Their public comment time is toward the end of the meeting.
Holland Patent has an agenda item “Board Forum”, again self-explanatory. Their public comments are at the beginning of the meeting as are New Hartford’s.
It would appear that New Hartford Central School's by-laws do not match their policies and that policies are selectively applied depending on the person(s) involved. It also appears that New Hartford Central School Board Officers and administration does not like open discussion.
So the questions we ask…
Is the board policy as outlined by Ms. Luker and Superintendent Nole at last evening’s board meeting unreasonable?
Should school board members be allowed to speak during a meeting without the board president and superintendent’s blessings at least four (4) days prior to the meeting?
Are the administration and board president merely trying to stifle questions by a certain board member?
As taxpayers In the New Hartford Central School District, do you find it disturbing that the school board president and school superintendent try to control what discussions takes place in the public eye and are willing to go so far as to stifle discussion by board members?
Here is the video of that portion of the meeting.
You will find the entire meeting on our YouTube Channel later today.