Douglas County school board directors agreed to a number of meeting norms during the second portion of a board retreat on Aug. 9.
After a tense first day of retreat discussions on Aug. 6 about rebuilding trust, board directors had a productive conversation agreeing to guidelines for meeting behavior and board interactions, including avoiding surprises at meetings and following all legal requirements.
The first norm board directors agreed on is to enable everyone to hold the board accountable to its norms, agendas and mission.
Similarly, board directors suggested a norm to abide by set agenda times and another to endeavor to avoid surprises, which includes alerting fellow board members and the superintendent about possible controversial topics.
“I think that’s really key to respect and to efficiency,” Board President Mike Peterson said. “The last thing I want to do is get up here and play stump the cabinet, stump the superintendent because that doesn’t help us or anyone.”
The board proposed a noon deadline the day before a scheduled meeting to get questions and requests to the superintendent as part of the no surprises norm.
Superintendent Erin Kane, who joined the retreat on Aug. 9, agreed the norm would help her be prepared.
“Of course things are going to come up during a board meeting, but it’d be extremely helpful if you don’t come to a board meeting and ask ‘Erin, can you tell us starting salaries for every other district,’” Kane said.
When it comes to directors’ language, they supported a norm of speaking respectfully, openly, directly and transparently. Another would have directors assume positive intent from one another.
The proposed norms would also have the board model civil dialogue while respecting opposing views; considering what forum is appropriate for feedback; and conduct meetings in accordance with all applicable laws.
“It is when we have those fierce conversations that we need the help of norms,” Director David Ray said of his support for the modeling civil dialogue guideline.
Directors discussed a potential norm that would have them operate in the best interest of the school district, but decided it was too subjective to be helpful.
“I agree that it should be something we strive to do, but the only thing is … how do we enforce what’s best for the school district when there’s a difference of opinion,” Peterson said.
Directors are expected to approve the norms at the Aug. 23 meeting and the group agreed that, once approved, the norms should be easy to find on the district’s website and featured in the board meeting room.
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