Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Elections aren’t a waste of money

Our school board’s chair, Sally Hoelscher, announced her resignation from the board yesterday, citing personal reasons. The board can now choose to fill the position by appointment or (by not acting within thirty days) can trigger a special election.

The last vacancy was filled by appointment, and I expect this one to be, too. I don’t think that’s the end of the world. It would take four of the six remaining members to approve an appointment—in effect, a supermajority—and there’s about a year left in Hoelscher’s term.

Nonetheless, I hope the board will choose to hold an election. And I certainly hope that the board members won’t justify an appointment on the grounds of “avoiding a costly election.” Democratic control of the public schools isn’t just an extravagant frill.

One of the most common complaints about the board, after all, has been that it is unresponsive to community input. There are many controversial issues currently before the board, including the recent budget cuts, redistricting, and the implementation of the long-term facilities plan. There is no better way to gauge community preferences on those issues than by holding an election. An election would certainly be a far better indicator than the district’s hyper-managed “engagement” efforts (and may even be less expensive!).

Of course, this blog has been ranting for years about K-12 education’s disrespect for democratic values. Democratic control of public education is as enfeebled as it’s ever been. In my dreams, our board members would use this occasion to welcome public input and to proudly defend the importance of democratic control. At the very least I hope they don’t add to the disrespect by suggesting that democracy is just a costly luxury. .


Jennifer B. said...

I am wondering if you know Chris, if the board chooses to appoint someone, do they have the power to choose anyone in the community or does it need to be someone who previously ran for a school board position?

Chris said...

Jennifer -- I'm pretty sure they can choose anyone from the community.

Julie VanDyke said...

Part 1-
This is what I can say, all of course an ongoing 3-dimensional Vulcan chess game and only guessing and in my own opinion, for now.
Chris said, “The last vacancy was filled by appointment, and I expect this one to be, too. I don’t think that’s the end of the world.”
The last vacancy was announced with quite a bit of notice in comparison. That allowed a responsible, pre-planned “funeral” of the abdicator’s term by allowing the full board at that time to determine the “best?” response.

Last time, there were a small number of relatively low-impact board meetings still remaining before an already scheduled school board election to which Cooper’s 2 year term could easily be added. It is because of that scenario that a short-term appointment of a former board member was feasible for the “remainder” of that year of Cooper’s term, not Cooper’s term per se, possible (though questionably “best”). A year+ remaining of Sally’s term is NOT three meetings, it is NOT appropriate to appoint a board member for that amount of time and they would regret that action immensely is my guess.

There is more than one situation in play, on too many different levels regarding more individuals than my wrists can, or will, type. That said, we are not just filling one seat at the board table (well, if you can count a president and vice-president who appeared to follow direction from Mr. Murley like a pair of yoked oxen instead of the reverse). At stake is the filling a board seat AND choosing a president.
Both seat term and presidential discussion must be addressed and voted on entirely in open session in order not to violate Iowa Open Meeting law.

The current board members cannot “deliberate” = discuss any of this in any permutation that would constitute a quorum or they are in violation of open meeting law.

Both seat fill and presidential throne figurehead (or maybe real this time please?) ascension must be added to an agenda for a future board meeting to even be discussed, BUT EVEN JUST ADDING THOSE ITEMS TO AN AGENDA SHOULD ONLY OCCUR DURING A BOARD meeting (next not scheduled till July 8th), or in an emergency open session meeting in the meantime. But the board has never fully codified what constitutes justification to call for an emergency open session meeting.

In fact, it’s been a problem for years because there is no reasonable, clear definition of what qualifies for an emergency meeting so there really isn’t a functioning protocol. Instead there is policy language so vague, it leaves any action to even call an emergency open session meeting open to intense scrutiny for potential if not likely walking quorum, lawsuit, open meeting law violation…oh, so very many problems.

Julie VanDyke said...

Part 2:

Now, cause it’s not “and if you’re wearing blue socks and it’s Wednesday you do it like this” enough already, there are delicate Iowa Open Meeting Law rules about what they can actually even do at what kinds of meetings. It’s “easier” to call an emergency “work session” meeting than an emergency “board meeting”, but by law, they can’t vote at a work session. A work session is only for sharing information and discussion. They have graciously “allowed” themselves to informally vote at them (questionable even) by asking if there is “consensus” amongst themselves and each addressing whether they feel they have “consensus” (tiptoe round the tulips?), but it would be illegal for them to hold a vote at a work session.

So, without a vote on both seat fill and presidential succession, they cannot complete action on either. Marla couldn’t even be promoted to president again, even if she wants to be and I very much doubt that she does or that she is capable of handling what is about to ensue, without a board vote. They can’t vote at an easier to schedule emergency “work session”, they don’t have clear protocol regarding the issues that would arise from scheduling an emergency “board meeting” this controversial so they may not even attempt it, and there’s another totally insane potential twist (cause how would this be the biggest possible money-making reality tv show ever without at least one).

Think about this and the many, many complications it implies = I can’t go look right now, but if all of board policy language words protocol for scheduling either type of meeting in terms of requiring that the board president (as I think they do) initiate these actions, what can they actually do without a president to initiate?

Now, if they Murley consultation their way into some rationalization around all of this (you know, since he’s still got half of the yoke reins with Marla as current board VP), those actions and all that follow as a result will be dissected and examined by everyone with a stake in who fills that seat. Who does not have a stake in who fills that seat and how? Whatever is done involving all decisions to be made must be spotless, ethical, transparent, and beyond reproach or I would guess there will be lawsuit(s). Likely, there could be lawsuits even if it is done to those standards…likely with legal advice…oh, say, because the NCPish folks (which Chris Lynch was spawned by) have a Collins, a federal judge who I have been told was quite crucial in drafting the NCP petition (I called it my way or the highway) with the last name Collins in their ranks…have conversed directly with the state department of ed as if they are Murley’s little auxiliary…have already threatened legal action if the Diversity Policy is enacted…and lets not pretend the “Support Iowa City Schools” faction or their secretive, non-transparent leadership is any less potentially litigiously, any “better”, or more altruistic than the NCPish faction (notice the word “Community” missing from the group’s name and please don’t pretend it wasn’t knowingly divisive and antagonistic towards everyone in the school district who does not live in the Iowa City limits).

Julie VanDyke said...

Part 3:

Ok, last crucial plot twist for the moment (there are too many to type), who “can” be president of this board in the interim or even after a vote?:

-if Marla Swesey has officially been confirmed to have bullied another board director (verbally and, shockingly enough, physically as well) as the result of an ICCSD internal district complaint by the legally seated equity director, should she even be on the board at all? Gasp, what would it do to the future credibility of the board and district if she became president after she used her current board director seat, VP title, former President status, and any inappropriate pressure or assistance from Murley to inappropriately add an agenda item to the committee chaired by the assaulted victim, to bully a district parent, peer board member, and board committee chair, before, during, and after a board committee meeting while she officially acting in her status as a board director and VP, on school district property? In my opinion, Marla should not, if a confirmed bully, be given authority or advantage over her victim so shortly after the incident, or ever for that matter, period. Marla should not be president, even though that would be the most likely short term “solution” under better circumstances because she is current board VP. Marla should not be board president or vice president, period.

-if Jeff McGinness, who took a board oath to uphold Iowa Law in addition to the requirements that he also do so as a formerly licensed Iowa lawyer, has been found to have lied to an opposing lawyer in and out of court…and he falsified court documents to support that lie in a legal case for which he was the attorney for the other party (against whose interests his actions reflected shamefully)…and he then lied about it repeatedly to an Iowa court to everyone involved AND the judge in the case all while still frantically trying to hide his lie while he viciously and in a pre-meditated manner attacked the credibility of the opposing attorney while also essentially hanging others out to dry, including his own secretary, just to defend his lie and avoid taking responsibility for it at the expense of others who had been honest (he even paid for his own personal handwriting expert witness to support his lie in court) FINALLY CONFESSING to his lies and completely unethical acts AFTER he was caught and called out for all of it by the judge in the case…and then he fought his luckier than he had any right to peer authority recommended “punishment” of a 6 month revocation of his Iowa license to practice law…and then even lost that attempt to avoid real responsibility for his actions as delivered by a clearly disgusted, almost mocking of his absurdly oversized ego to have even attempted these actions, Iowa Supreme Court ruling against him and for which, hmmm, I believe his license is still revoked? This “man” cannot be trusted, his credibility is irreparably damaged not only because of the three battles he lost while trying to hide his lie(s) but even more so because he TRIED TO HIDE THE LIE. Why is he still on the school board. Why would “we” allow him to be an example to the children, or parents for that matter, of this district. Jeff should not even be on the board. Jeff should not be board vice president or board president, period.

Julie VanDyke said...

Part 4 or is it 5 yet?:

Shall I save a detailed analysis of the next two for later?..In the meantime, their meeting management skills, understanding of board procedure, questionable ability, or even willingness, to make decisions guided by the recommendations of but independent of Murley’s heavy hand, understanding of board operating procedures, history, policy, and open meetings law, their apparent preferential district faction bias and/or associations, and/or their past leadership (Lynch) in selling us an RPS during which we were never even told we were in a board budget emergency that would eliminate course offerings and Junior High Football, etc., in my opinion, make them unacceptable choices for board president.

Patti or Tuyet are the only two people who should be considered for Board VP OR Board President at this time, period.

On “Transparency”:
-Pretty much any board “deliberation” of this magnitude should be videotaped and broadcast because of the impact of the decisions to be made.
-The clearly and specifically promised transparency as discussed ad nausea during the same election I ran in with Sally, Marla, Karla, Patti, and Jeff has NOT been provided or improved by them (as further very prescriptively addressed in the Synesi Audit by an outside and unbiased process audit) as they consistently promised, it has, in fact, on a very long list of items, been eliminated except as Murley and Ramey decide in closed door meetings where they write board policy (perhaps illegally even), decide.