Proposed Everett School Board policy change draws fire

  • Mon Oct 18th, 2010 5:43pm
  • News

By Andy Rathbun Herald Writer

EVERETT — A tweak to the Everett School Board’s policy is spurring a larger debate about the direction of the group.

The board may vote Tuesday to change its approach to the consent agenda, a clearing list of items that need regular approval.

As it stands, any single board member can pull an item off that list for discussion.

Board member Jeff Russell wants to change that, requiring two people to agree to move the item. Russell sees the change as a way to keep the board focused on big-picture issues. The board will consider the change at its 4:30 meeting today.

“It’s more of a way of holding each other accountable and saying we really are going to focus our time and energy on policy,” he said.

Board member Jessica Olson disagrees. She sees value in the type of nuts-and-bolts items that appear on the consent agenda. She’s questioned them before, and sees the proposed change as an effort to silence her.

“The rights of the minority have to be protected on any board,” she said.

Consent agendas typically act as a way for boards to round-up the minor items they regularly approve — expenses, recurring contracts, meeting minutes and more. With the items bunched together, boards approve them all at once.

Most school boards allow a single member to pull an item, but that’s not required, said Marilee Scarbrough, policy and legal services director for the Washington State School Directors Association.

“They can choose to do a different format,” she said.

For example, the Marysville and Edmonds school districts both require a board member to get support to pull an item, either from the board chairman or another member, respectively.

The Everett School Board voted 3-1 earlier this month to consider a change. Olson dissented. School Board President Ed Petersen was absent.

Everett School District Superintendent Gary Cohn said the board has focused more on policy matters and less on administrative details in the past year.

“This is a reasonable step in that direction,” he said.

Russell isn’t trying to silence anyone, he said. Board members can speak about anything at the end of the meeting, during their general comments. Also, if an item gets pulled by two people, that still represents a minority on the five-person board.

“You have to persuade just one member,” he said.

But Olson worries she won’t get that support. She said she doesn’t want to lose the ability to debate the accuracy of meeting minutes or question recurring contracts.

“I feel like I will never be able to pull anything,” she said.

Andy Rathbun: 425-339-3455, arathbun@heraldnet.com.