Friday, March 15, 2019

Electronic Voting - what's wrong?

Are electronics supposed to simplify life and meetings?

If you have attended Richland 2 Board meetings in-person or viewed them on YouTube, you have seen the pauses and delays, when the Board votes on adoption of agendas, student matters, or adoption of policies.

The Chair calls for the question (Let's vote!) and then it's time for a nap. Somebody has to type up the question, and then the Board members must touch a button on their tablet screens.

Instead of a quick show of hands, there is a long silence. And then it's even longer, when the question is worded incorrectly. Or the wrong Board-member name is entered for the person making or seconding the motion. Or the vote is incorrect and must be corrected.

This needs to be fixed between meetings, so that the flow is smooth and fast.

Aren't electronics supposed to save time, not waste it?

The Ides of March

Do most students today have any idea what is meant by "the Ides of March"? Or who Julius Caesar was? Or when he died?

Or what "Et tu, Brute" means? Or where those words come from?

Would they have any idea even how to pronounce them?

Is Latin taught in any public school in South Carolina? Are there Latin classes in the Gifted & Talented program at any Richland 2 school?

When did I learn those words? 1951. Why would I still remember them? I myself am thankful for the education I received in University City, Missouri.

Will the kids today be thankful for their secondary education? Will it be a genuine foundation of lifelong learning?

Consent Agenda - what is it?

At each meeting of the Richland 2 School Board, a motion is made to approve the Consent Agenda. When the Board members are asked if there is discussion, there is none. When the vote is taken, it is unanimous.

What is the Consent Agenda?.

It could be approval of accounts payable. It could be forgiveness of debt owed to the District. It could be school remodels. It could be expense accounts. It could be Board or employee travel, meetings, conferences. It could be promotions and raises.

In many "public bodies" (city, county, village, town governments, school boards) approval is needed for business to happen. One way to approve all the administrative detail is to bury it in the Consent Agenda. The Administration (Superintendent, Staff) will seek approval of the Board on many matters.

The Board members will know what is on the Consent Agenda. They should receive lengthy reports, posted to their Board-issued tablets. In olden days (not all that long ago), thick packets of reports were distributed to Board members (city councils, etc.), so that they could read, understand, highlight, question the contents. Now it's electronic. This saves money. It also makes it hard for the public to get the information in advance of a decision.

Sometimes the full Board packet for a public body (legal term for a taxpayer-supported entity) is available by a visit to official offices or a public library. Has anyone ever asked to see the "packet"?

When the Motion is made to approve the Consent Agenda, any Board member can ask for an item to be pulled. This means the item will be temporarily set aside for discussion for a vote. The public body then votes on all the other items. Then the public body returns to the "pulled" item, discusses it (or them) and votes.

The public is entitled to know what the Board is approving.

Is the Consent Agenda available for inspection before a Board meeting? How far ahead is it available? Where? During what hours?

Do Board members read all the information in the semi-monthly meeting packets? At the February 26 Board meeting, Theresa Holmes asked a question of a staffer about which teachers were in the Gifted & Talented Program. The speaker hesitated and then said the information was in the report (in the packet). Obviously, Ms. Holmes hadn't read the report. In a future article, I shall address the propriety of a Board member's visiting a G&T classroom.

Several years ago I identified the danger in electronic packaging of reports into Board-distributed tablets. This was back in Woodstock, Ill., when the city council opted to move away from paper packets to electronic tablets. "To save money", don't you know? Who has time to read all that information?