Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Embarrassing Pause at Board Meeting

At tonight's Special Called Board Meeting there was one voting item on the Agenda.

After the Public Participation segment, at which a Ms. Parker (if I heard her name correctly) spoke on the re-zning issue, it was time for the board to consider the next item on the agenda.

But first ... Ms. Parker was the only parent to address the board on the re-zoning of two neighborhoods, so that their students would be transferred from Catawba Trail Elementary to Bookman Road Elementary. She said she had spoken with a number of other parents, and they weren't coming to this meeting because they thought it was a done deal; that the board intended to vote to approve.

At the meeting I counted five Board members present: Manning, Agostini, McKie, Caution-Parker, and Shadd. Elkins-Johnson and Holmes were not there.

There was some conversation at the front of the room that was not spoken into the microphones, After the vote on the re-zoning, Mrs. Agostini left. That left four - not a quorum.

There had been a comment made during the board's discussion on the re-zoning issue, I looked around to see who was speaking. It was a woman's voice, and I couldn't find anyone in the room who seemed to be speaking.

After Mrs. Agostini left, I realized that Dr. Elkins-Johnson was attending by telephone. Surprise! Maybe Ms. Holmes also attended by telephone. I'll read the Minutes to find out.

When the Agenda item for the re-zoning was up, Board Chair James Manning asked for a Motion. There was an inordinately long delay. I mean, L-O-N-G. No one spoke up. NO Trustee was willing to make the motion. I believe Mr. Manning asked a second time. After another, but shorter and still embarrassing, pause, Mrs. Agostini made the motion.

What was wrong with the Trustees? Why did they all sit there like bumps on a log, unwilling to make the Motion?

Mrs. Agostini deserves NO criticism for stepping up to the plate and doing her duty. But the others?

Most of the discussion could not be heard. Mrs. Agostini did speak into her microphone.

Mrs. McKie did not, plus she turned away from the microphone to look at other board members while she was speaking. She has said before that she has a soft voice; she knows she cannot be heard. So the board should buy her some voice lessons and tell her to lean forward and speak directly into the microphone.

James Shadd asked questions and made comments. He too could not be heard. He speaks softly, does not project his voice and speaks down below the microphone.

Caution-Parker had virtually nothing to say. At least she chewed her gum with her mouth closed.

It was very difficult to hear everything that Dr. Elkins said. The microphone that was positioned near the speaker did not amplify her voice well.

When the board heard from an expert on Robert's Rules of Order recently, they must have heard the speaker say that they had the right to hear and be heard. Does that apply to the audience and staff, too? 

Board Policy DEBM requires that Board Members are able to hear and be heard AND it requires that telephonic comments be "audible or otherwise discernable to the public in attendance at the meeting's location." THIS BOARD POLICY WAS VIOLATED TONIGHT.

And, if telephonic communications must be audible and discernable to the public in attendance at a meeting's location, then the comments from Board Members also should be audible and discernable!

The vote on the re-zoning was 7-0, if I heard Mr. Manning correctly. When I looked at the board seated there, there were only five, so I thought the vote was 5-0-0-0 (Yes-No-Abstain-Not Voting). Supt. Davis does not vote. I didn't see any hands raised. How did they vote? The count was too fast for electronic voting.

An important item needs to added to the meeting agenda. At every meeting, the Chair should tell the Secretary to "call the roll". Ascertain who is there and who is not there. If someone is attending by telephone, that should be acknowledged and recorded.

If anyone, including a telephone attendee, leaves the meeting, that should be acknowledged verbally and recorded.