School district board members regularly examine test scores and student grade-point averages as a good barometer of how well teachers, administrators and the district as a whole, are performing.
Those elected to guide the school district aren’t graded for their performance. There simply aren’t many measurable outcomes one could use other than attendance.
If USD 489 board members were assessed on that performance measure, the first quarter report card would show considerable room for improvement. An almost perfect bell curve exists with two A’s, two B’s, one C and two F’s.
Attendance by some members has been sporadic for the first quarter of the year.
Since July 1, when Paul Adams, Mandy Fox and Luke Oborny joined Sarah Rankin, Lance Bickle, Danielle Lang and Josh Waddell on the board, there have been five board meetings, one retreat, one work session and five negotiation sessions with the Hays-NEA.
The first meeting of the new year, July 6 when Bickle was voted president and Waddell vice president, is the only time the entire board has been present for a scheduled gathering.
Board policy states members should “attend all regularly scheduled board meetings insofar as possible and become informed concerning the issues to be considered at those meetings.”
Bickle, Oborny and Adams have attended all of the board meetings and the work session.
Bickle and Oborny haven’t missed any negotiation sessions and Adams missed two.
Lang has been recorded as absent since the first meeting.
She wrote in an email that she was put on bed rest in mid-July and began maternity leave in mid August.
Waddell has missed one meeting, the work session and has been absent for all of the negotiation sessions.
He didn’t respond to an email asking about his absences.
Rankin and Fox each missed one board meeting. Rankin was absent for one negotiation session, and Fox for two.
The negotiation sessions were noticed by the school district under special meetings.
Unless a quorum of BOE members attended, the sessions were not called to order as meetings. If four or more attended, a meeting was called.
“Attendance was something that was brought up by the teachers union, and we as a board thought it might be better to have the board there when we were doing negotiations,” said Bickle, who along with former BOE member Greg Schwartz, was named lead negotiators for the board.
The board discussed meeting times that would work for everyone.
“That hasn’t really happened. They weren’t what we had hoped,” Bickle said.
Usually one or two board members were there.
“Several were not able to make it,” he said.
Like meetings and work sessions, the negotiating sessions were “broadcast to be as transparent as possible. We have nothing to hide in negotiations.”
The meetings are open to the public, but not everyone can attend, and they should be able “to hear what members say for themselves,” Bickle said.
Oborny said in an email he remembers discussing with Superintendent Dean Katt an overview and expectations of a school board member.
“Obviously, attendance is important. It helps board members stay informed with issues and be active in the district we represent,” Oborny said. “We all have busy lives and multiple commitments and sometimes one will conflict with another.”
Bickle said when he was considering his board candidacy, he talked to then board members about the time required for not only attending meetings but also to study issues. He was told the board was considering changes which could mean even more time.
“So I went into it knowing it might take time. Meetings might be more often and longer than in the past.”
Bickle said he questioned having fewer meetings and work sessions for the current year than last year, and a greater time span between some of the work sessions and meetings.
“We’re elected to represent the people. I don’t want to get where we’re complacent.”
He is agreeable to not meeting as often as long as the board is “still able to accomplish what they needed to and not take a step back.”
Bickle said he’s tried to be available as much as possible, and as board president the time commitment is greater.
“People have asked why some board members aren’t there. I can’t answer that. Everybody has other commitments they have to make.”
Adams, 83%, B
Bickle, 100%, A
Fox, 75%, C
Lang, 9%, F
Oborny, 100%, A
Rankin, 83%, B
Waddell, 41%, F
Lang was put on bed rest in mid-July and began maternity leave in mid August.