Wednesday, January 8, 2020

1/7/2020 Special-Called Meeting - What a Joke!

The January 7th Special-Called Board Meeting has already been published on YouTube. Kudos to the District staff person who put it online so quickly.

What a joke!

It took 16 minutes just to get the Agenda approved.

The Board desperately needs a Parliamentarian. And I don't mean someone already on the Board. And definitely not an employee.

Amelia McKie missed the meeting, and no explanation was given. No roll call was taken. Six board members and the superintendent sat at the head tables.

After the meeting was called to order, Board Chair James Manning called for a motion to approve the Agenda.

Mrs. Agostini made a motion, and it was to amend the agenda and change Item 3.1 to "New Business - No Action Needed." James Shadd seconded.

Mrs. Agostini opened the discussion by explaining her reasons. 1. She only learned one day earlier what the vote would be on.

At this time Trustees Caution-Parker and Shadd were engaged in a side conversation, leaning behind Trustee Elkins-Johnson's chair. One of the things I've learned in many years of business and meetings is that it is almost impossible to engage in a private conversation and still hear and understand what is being said by a third party. Furthermore, such a conversation may impede the hearing and understanding of the person behind whose back you are talking.

Agostini's second reason for her motion was that such an important issue as Item 3.1 should be addressed in a Regular Meeting, not in a Special Meeting.

When a vote on the motion was called, Trustee Elkins didn't understand what was being voted on. It was like she was lost in space somewhere. Then, even though the vote had been called, she was allowed to ask a question and then amend the motion that was on the floor for a vote.

A Parliamentarian would have called "Point of Order" and gotten the meeting back on track.

A Parliamentarian would have halted the side conversations.

The vote was 3-3, resulting in the motion's failing.

Then Elkins made a motion to postpone the vote on Item 3.1 to the next meeting. It also failed 3-3.

The Chair asked Elkins a question, but she and Shadd were talking again and she didn't hear the Chair's question. After a pause and no response from her, the Chair continued.

The Chair asked again for a motion to approve the Agenda. After an embarrassing pause when no other Board member spoke up to make the motion, Mrs. Agostini saved the day and made a motion to accept the Agenda. Caution-Parker and Supt. Davis were having a side conversation. Then Caution-Parker seconded the motion.

After the vote was called for, which signals the end of discussion, Elkins commented that she had just received the supporting information on which they were to vote, had gotten it on "short notice", and had had no opportunity to go back and review it.

Mrs. Agostyini said she had just received the information the previous day and (only) because she had requested it from the Chair and the superintendent.

Approval of the Agenda passed on a vote of 5-1. Agostini voted No.

2020 did not start with a "premier board" It started with distraction and disorder. It is way past time for the Board to remind Administration that the Board directs, and the Administration carries out. The Board is NOT a rubber-stamp for the Administration. Or at least it should not be.

The Chair said he was "juicing" on Tuesday and had had no solid food that day. He asked the board's forgiveness if he seemed a little "loopy"

From my previous experience in working with people who were "loopy", last night might have been a good time for the Chair to excuse himself, ask the Board Vice-Chair to take over and then go home. Without his "No" vote, both of the previous motions would have passed.

Discuss of Item 3.1 begins at 16:20 on the YouTube recording of the January 7, 2020 Special-Called Meeting.

Am I too hard on the Board? Remember, they are responsible for a $1,Billion operation. The Administration was asking the Board to spend $9,100,000,000 without much thought. The Board must learn to assert itself and not get jammed into hasty decisions.

To be continued.

So Much Wrong!

There are so many things wrong about the action taken at last night's Special-Called Board Meeting.

Following is my summary, after reading the press release this morning.

Why did the first (original) Agenda published last week for the January 7th meeting not include the attachment explaining the budget Amendment?

Why doesn't the final Agenda carry an "Amended" notation?

Why was the Amendment dealt with on its first reading and at a Special-Called Meeting, not at a Regular Meeting?

Why was the Amendment dealt with at a meeting that included no Public Participation?

Why was the Agenda Item No. 3.1 changed (after the meeting?) to include the language of the Motion AND by whom the Motion and Second were made AND the vote by the Board?

Why is the board adopting a smoke-and-mirrors approach with this amendment to the 2019-20 Budget?

Did the Board violate Board Policy BE Board Meetings?

Did the Board fail to follow Parliamentary Procedure, as described in Robert's Rules of Order, for business at a Special-Called Meeting?

Did the Board violate South Carolina law (S.C. Code of Laws §59-1-340) by conducting business on the Budget Amendment at the January 7, 2020 Special-Called Meeting? What was the Board Chair's explanation of "necessary" that was given in public, if any?

Why did the District's Chief Communication Officer publish a press release at 10:05PM after the Special Meeting?

Why does the Board tolerate the extent of control claimed by Administration, rather than leading and directing the District?

These, and perhaps additional, issues will be addressed on this blog in the following days.

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10:05PM Press Release

Following last night's Special-Called Board Meeting, the District's Chief Communication Officer emailed the following press release:

COLUMBIA, S.C. — At the January 7, 2020 special called board meeting, the Richland School District Two Board of Trustees approved a proposal to allocate the $16.9 million surplus from the Fiscal Year 2018-19 General Fund Budget. The allocations include:
·         a one-time General Fund Budget allocation of $25 per student to supplement schools’ discretionary instructional allocations for classroom supplies and instructional initiatives. The estimated cost of this investment is $750,000.
·         a one-time General Fund Budget allocation of $25 per student to media centers for updating circulations and providing additional media supplies and resources. The estimated cost of this investment is $750,000.
·         a one-time bonus of $1,000 to all full-time permanent employees. The estimated cost of this investment is $4,100,000, which includes related fringe.
·         $3.5 million for the Building Fund to help lessen the impact on taxpayers for the funding of annual capital improvement expenditures.

At the December 10, 2019 board meeting, the district’s auditor presented the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report based on an audit of the Fiscal Year 2018-19 General Fund Budget. The auditor reported that the district ended the budget year with a $16.9 million surplus, which is about six percent of the 2018-2019 budget. The source of the surplus was a combination of $9.3 million in lower expenditures than budgeted (primarily in salaries and fringe benefits) and $7.6 million in higher than anticipated revenues ($3.6 million in local taxes and $4.1 million in state revenues).

At the January 7, 2020 board meeting, Dr. Baron R. Davis said, “In the past few years any budget surplus was rolled into the district’s Fund Balance. However this year, district administrators are proposing allocating the surplus to make investments in our students, employees, community and future. The proposal supports our district’s strategic plan, mission and vision.”

The remainder of the surplus will roll over to the district’s Fund Balance to ensure Richland Two maintains a fiscally responsible level of reserves (which is the equivalent of approximately 2.5 months average operating costs). An adequate Fund Balance is necessary to ensure financial security during the first six months of the school year, when state and federal revenues decline and local revenue is minimal. This would prevent the district from having to issue a Tax Anticipation Note, which ultimately costs the district money in the way of interest and issuance costs.