‘Twas an odd chain of events that culminated in two conflicting ICCSD board decisions, and now a board president is to be elected

  •   Tuesday, May 13, 2014, ICCSD Board [Open] Meeting*

The ICCSD’s ongoing budget issues led the board to freeze “central administrative salaries” for the upcoming fiscal year. Only board members Lynch and Hoelscher voted against this. A reasonable assumption would be that this decision froze the salaries of all administrative positions, including high level direct reports, who were located at ICCSD’s central administrative office (CAO),** and did not include school building level administrators (e.g. principals).

  •  Tuesday, June 10, 2014, ICCSD Board Exempt [Closed] Meeting

The board held an “exempt” meeting, citing Iowa Code 21.9—see below. This law permits, but does not require a closed meeting. Further, Iowa Code 21.9 uses the word “discuss” rather than “decide.” No final decisions should be made at an “exempt” meeting. Upon information and belief, this closed meeting was attended by Superintendent Murley and all board members except Dorau. No minutes have yet been published for this “exempt” meeting.

 21.9  EMPLOYMENT CONDITIONS DISCUSSED.

         A meeting of a governmental body to discuss strategy in matters relating to employment conditions of employees of the governmental body who are not covered by a collective bargaining agreement under chapter 20 is exempt from this chapter.  For the purpose of this section, “employment conditions” mean areas included in the scope of negotiations listed in section 20.9.

 On Monday, June 23, 2014, the Iowa City Press Citizen published an article entitled “ICCSD admin pay freeze doesn’t apply to most administrators.”***  Wow! The decision to freeze “central administrative salaries” still stood–the board hadn’t moved to reconsider its decision at its May 13th meeting or moved to rescind or amend its decision at a subsequent meeting.

  •  Tuesday, June 24, 2014, ICCSD Board [Open] Meeting

Iowa City Press-Citizen reporter Holly Hines knew something I didn’t because the board ended up freezing the pay of only six administrators.****

In my opinion, holding an exempt meeting to “discuss strategy” for frozen wages is inappropriate. The board should have met in public, moved to rescind or amend the existing decision to freeze the salaries, and held an open debate. Then the public could see and hear the discussion. Currently, there is a decision to freeze “central administrative salaries” and a decision to freeze the salaries of only six administrators.

Where is this leading?  Well the Iowa Constitution says it best:

“Political power. Section 2. All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for the protection, security, and benefit of the people, and they have the right, at all times, to alter or reform the same, whenever the public good may require it.”

For the people to be involved, business must be conducted in public, and the public must be able to speak at meetings. On Tuesday, July 1, 2014, the board will elect new officers.  The next board president must:

  1. keep meetings open even when the law permits, but does not require, closure (except in the most narrow of circumstances, which should be rare),
  2. protect the public’s right to comment,
  3. understand the district’s finances and appreciate its history of educational excellence; and
  4. have a good understanding of the rules of running a meeting to keep the process fair.

Although I have often disagreed with her, Tuyet Dorau is the board member who has most recently supported the right of the public to be involved. First, she understood the unconstitutionality of viewpoint discrimination in the poorly drafted previously proposed public comment policy. Second, she pushed, albeit unsuccessfully, to allow public comment on the “attendance zones” agenda item* even before she knew of the president vacancy. Third, she understands the budget and parliamentary procedure and received the most votes of any candidate in the last board election.  The next board president does not have to be someone I always agree with; however, he or she should permit and require issues to be debated in the open.

Meaningful public involvement in schools requires open board meetings where we can see what our elected officials are doing, and vote them out if we don’t like their behavior.  Let’s make sure the next board president commits to open government and then walks the talk.  Otherwise, we can and should vote him or her out.

*Minutes of 5/13/14 ICCSD board meeting – http://www.iowacityschools.org/files/_0eK5p_/a4faf3d066d0b1393745a49013852ec4/May_13_2014.pdf

**To see the positions labeled “Administrative Team- Central Office” check out the organizational chart on page 13 (ix) of the district’s most recent audit found at http://auditor.iowa.gov/reports/1330-3141-C00F.pdf.

****http://www.press-citizen.com/story/news/education/k-12/2014/06/23/iccsd-admin-pay-freeze-apply-administrators/11293021/.

****http://www.press-citizen.com/story/news/education/k-12/2014/06/24/school-district-leaders-pay-raises-kick-fall/11342421/

Update: On May 13, 2014, there was a successful motion by  Dorau, which was seconded by McGinness, “to freeze central administrative salaries for the upcoming fiscal year.”
Lynch and Hoelscher voted against the motion.
Kirschling, McGinness, Swesey, Dorau, and Fields voted in favor of the motion.

As of April 10, 2014, the ICCSD board had not published minutes of its exempt meeting on June 10, 2014.

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This entry was posted in Administrators, Budget, Cuts, ICCSD, Iowa City Schools and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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