Tuesday, May 26, 2020

May 26, 2020 Regular Meeting - Ombudsman Report

"Public session starts at 5 p.m." This appeared on the holding page for today's Livestream meeting.

No, actually it doesn't. The public session began at 4:30PM, and the board quickly moved into executive session. The public session re-convened at 5:00PM.

Is there any reason that District Two cannot be accurate and correct about this?

When the meeting resumed at 5:00PM, there was a significant audio problem, and the first seven minutes were unintelligible. There was an audio loop that caused words to be repeated after 1-2 seconds, and this continued to 5:07PM.

The District should provide a call-in number to a staff member, for reports of technical difficulties.

A major item on the agenda tonight was a report by the District's Ombudsman, Kelli Johnson. She had prepared a PowerPoint presentation, and she read it to the board. She. Read. It. The presentation was/is attached to the Agenda, and you can read it yourself. Why would the superintendent not coach her to speak to the board while showing them her presentation?

As she went through her pages, I kept thinking, "This is not the role of an ombudsman." If you have been in a large business, you may know the function of an ombudsman. It's not a 4-1-1 operator. Obviously, the superintendent defined Kelli's job, and she'll do it exactly the way he says. And she won't make any waves.

That could be why she merely read her presentation tonight and was not prepared to answer the most basic questions from the board.

How does Wikipedia define Ombudsman? "An ombudsman, ombudsperson, ombud, or public advocate is an official who is charged with representing the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints of mal-administration or a violation of rights."

This is definitely not what the District's ombudsman does. It's a feel-good position, designed to do nothing more than listen to people so they'll calm down.

Can you imagine if I contacted Kelli and attempted to discuss the ethical problems on the Board and sought resolution? Kelli would probably lose her job, if she even allowed me in her office, so I won't call her.

She should have shown up tonight with some hard numbers and a couple of pie charts. Instead, she was empty-handed, and a board member had to ask for detailed information. Dr. Elkins-Johnson's request was put forward. I wonder when we'll find out whether the superintendent responded. Will the resopnse be provided to the public at a board meeting? Will the public ever hear the naswer to Dr. Elkins' request?

Then the superintendent gave a COVID-19 update. At the beginning he said that nothing much had changed. And 15 minutes later ...  well, he did say, in answer to one board member's question, that he does not know of even one COVID-19 diagnosis of an employee or student.

So, out of 28,000 students and 3,000+ employees, not even one.

And yet, Richland Two is shut down. How many members of the public attended tonight's meeting? The LIVE counter at the upper left of the screen held steady at "2". So, one other member of the public and I were there. Are there any community members, or even employees, who care?

Misleading countdown timer, 5/26/20

The Richland School District Two Regular Meeting of the school board was supposed to start at 4:30PM. At 4:25PM a countdown timer showed that the meeting would begin in 0 hours 18 min 45 sec. (or at about 4:43PM). Now that might cause some to go away and come back at 4:43PM.

But, surprise! The meeting started on time at 4:30PM. Mr. Manning convened the open meeting and called for a motion to go into Executive Session. Somebody began speaking, and I think somebody started talking over her. There was an audio loop that caused spoken words to be played a second time.

Somebody ought to tell the board members that, when the Chair calls for a motion, the correct response is to ask to recognized. You don't just start  talking - especially when everyone is attending remotely. After each meeting I have written to the board to suggest that they get a Zoom professional consultant to train them how to conduct an electronic meeting properly. Or maybe the superintendent could recommend to the Chair that they do that.

Teresa Holmes had a big smile on her face. Was that her dog that was barking? Again? That same Zoom consultant would have some direct words for her about putting her dog where its bark won't be heard or hiring someone to take it for a walk or even just using her Mute button to silence extraneous noises. It's definitely not cute.

Or was it someone else's dog? The same dog has barked in at least two previous meetings.

Here's the timer at 4:44PM. I caught it just before it vanished.