School board agenda policy questioned : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|School board agenda policy questioned|
|O'Neil says two requests to place items on agendas have been denied|
|by Lyle R. Rolfe|
Greg O'Neil told his fellow Oswego School District Board members last week that he was not happy with the way Board President Bill Walsh is handling his requests to place an item on the school board meeting agenda.
O'Neil asked for a clarification concerning the responsibilities of the board's policy committee.
"Are they going to be implementing policies for this board with its internal affairs or are they just going to be looking at school policies and the operation of the school district, because I'm not sure I want a policy committee to be making and recommending policies to the board for our internal affairs," he said.
The policy committee is one of a group of committees named several months ago by the board. It consists of two board members that act as co-chairmen, volunteer members from the community and school district employees.
O'Neil said he tried two times to get an item placed on a meeting agenda in accordance with the policy that board members can place an item on the agenda, and it was denied both times.
"I don't know why it was denied. I don't understand why, if a board member asks to have an item placed on the agenda, it's denied. Is there some reason you don't want to discuss it? If so, we can postpone it and discuss it. There's a lot of ways procedurally to put it off until later. But I don't think arbitrarily one member of this board should be deciding what our board meetings will consist of," he said.
O'Neil said he brought the subject up to let other board members know it appears this is the way the policy works.
"We apparently don't have the right to put items on the agenda," he added.
"I will make a motion that in the future when a board member requests an item be placed on the next agenda, that it is done and not arbitrarily decided by someone else," he said. It did not receive a second.
Superintendent Dr. Matthew Wendt said he wanted everyone to know that he was not the person O'Neil was referring to keeping items off the agenda.
Walsh said he had received O'Neil's request on the Thursday before the meeting and said it was too late for this agenda, adding that it takes time to cycle items into the agenda. The agenda for this week had already been prepared, he said.
Walsh said O'Neil's agenda item dealt with public comment at board meetings and added that this is covered in an existing policy.
"The board is driven by these policies regardless whether it is for the school or the board," Walsh said.
He noted that the policy committee is looking at these policies and will be coming to the board with recommendations in October on public comment.
"I have no problem putting this on the agenda in a meeting or two. That's why we need a meeting or a second meeting to get everything cycled on," he said. The board's regular meeting dates are the second and fourth Monday of each month at 7 p.m.
O'Neil asked Walsh who decides what goes on the agendas and when the items get cycled in. Walsh said he and Wendt work together to place items requested by administration and the board, on the agenda.
O'Neil said he made the request six weeks earlier verbally to Walsh and then in writing "...and neither time has it been addressed."
"I personally do not like that policy and I do not like the policy committee deciding it when I can decide for myself what I think our policy should be within this board. I'm not talking about policies for the district or operations.
"But for this board, and how we get items on the agenda, is really not a concern of the policy committee," he said.
Board member Brent Lightfoot asked O'Neil what his item was about and was told that it dealt with the five-minute limit for residents to address the board at a regular meeting. In the past speakers have been told by Walsh that their time was up when they reached the five minute mark on an electronic timer.
"I'm not sure what the policy committee is going to say on that but ultimately we're going to make that decision ourselves regardless of what the policy committee says," O'Neil said.
Lightfoot suggested he wait a couple weeks until the policy committee makes a recommendations to the board.
But O'Neil said he has one question: does a board member have the right to place an item on the agenda as he was told after being elected, or not?
Walsh: Wednesday noon
is deadline for requests
Walsh said he was first contacted by O'Neil last Thursday when there were already many items on the agenda. Other than the routine items such as reports, acceptance of financial reports, and executive session, there were seven items on the agenda to be voted on or discussed.
Walsh said he did not want to take action on O'Neil's question or it would devalue all the work the policy committee is doing that will be reported on next month.
Walsh still insisted that any board member can place an item on the agenda but it has to be e-mailed to the board president by noon on the Wednesday before the Monday night meeting.
A short time later in the meeting, Kenneth Blue of Oswego was speaking to the board asking that the district deny a request from an apartment developer to reduce various fees to the district when Walsh interrupted and said his five minutes were up.
At that time O'Neil made a motion that Blue be allowed to finish his comments. It was seconded by Lightfoot and passed by a 5-2 vote with Walsh and Danielle Paul voting no.
Walsh said his vote was not because of the subject but because the board has a five minute limit for each person to address the board.