Friday, July 2, 2010

Avoiding the Public Scrutiny - Part 3

Click on the image for a closer look

The superintendent of the Adelanto Elementary School District, Mr. Darin Brawley and board president, Mrs. Lisa Marie Garcia, signed and submitted a binding no opt-out Race to the Top memorandum of understanding agreement without prior official board approval and without public discussion. This signed agreement, if the grant is received, commits the district to requirements never previously discussed nor approved by the board in an official public meeting. Nor was the action publicly announced in the next board meeting after signing the agreement. And prior to my actions – the public didn’t know anything about it.

Why is this a big deal? It is a big deal because transparency in governance as described in California’s Brown Act is meant to be the prime directive in how school boards should conduct business. The Brown Act is a law that essentially states that school boards and other public agencies in California need to conduct the people’s business openly. In the case of Race to the Top, legal opinions opined that board action was not required to sign the agreement, but the California School Boards Association advised local school districts to secure board approval in order to comply with state law. It just becomes worrisome and a conflict when new legislation, contracts, and board actions are crafted to bypass the public scrutiny.

Disregard for transparency in governance leads to justification for all kinds of attempts to bypass the public scrutiny. Look at the above image of board item 8.10 of the April 20th board meeting agenda. The title of the board item is PTA Membership Drive. It is well described. The idea was popular among the board members. Helping to expand the enrollment of PTA membership sounds like a good idea. The funding source, however, was not acceptable. Most of the board was uncomfortable with taking $2400 already allocated per school from a Reading and Math grant to buy incentives for a PTA membership drive. It sounded like a school would lose its $2400 if it did not reach its PTA membership drive goal. It was tabled with a 3-2 vote. The idea behind tabling the item was to find a different funding source.

Click on the image for a closer look

Now look at the above image of board item 8.01 of the June 1st board meeting agenda – it’s devoid of any information. It turns out, with questioning by the board, that this item was really board item 8.10 from the April 20th meeting revisited without any changes, except devoid of up front information. The funding source to buy the incentives for a PTA membership drive was unchanged – it was just not revealed except under questioning.

These types of practices are not good examples of transparency in governance. Avoiding the public scrutiny is not how we should do business.

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California Government Code – Brown Act

The First Amendment Project – Brown Act

The Brown Act

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