Dave Donley: A call for greater transparency in Anchorage School Board meeting minutes

16
647

By DAVE DONLEY

On May 31, 2023, I wrote a commentary emphasizing the need for more public notice when the Anchorage School Board takes major spending actions. I am again calling for more transparency from the school board.

Months ago, the school board leadership decided to change the way meeting minutes are prepared. They suggested going to “action minutes” to reduce the burden on the board’s secretary. In the future, only “actions” would be mentioned in the minutes. This seemed like a reasonable idea at the time. However, the board majority’s definition of an “action” differs from the common meaning of the word.

It was recently announced that from now on only motions that are seconded will be recorded in the minutes. This is problematic because having a complete public record of what happens at school board meetings is vital. Many times, extremely significant motions die from the lack of a second member voting in support. During the past six years, dozens of my budget amendments to reduce administrative spending have died for want of a second. Amendments I have offered to protect parents’ rights have also failed this way. From now on, it will appear in the minutes as if these types of actions never occurred.

The Anchorage School Board uses Robert’s Rules of Order regarding meetings. The Robert’s Rules Association is the nationally recognized interpreter of RRO. On the Robert’s Rules Association’s website, Interpretation 2006-7 states:

Question: It is my understanding that a main motion that dies for lack of a second is not to be recorded in the minutes because it never really came before the assembly and, therefore, need not be recorded. Is this correct?

Answer: No, it is not correct. Under the rule as stated in (Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised), on page 452, lines 21 to 23, minutes should record all main motions except, normally, any that were withdrawn.

Interpretation 2006-7 goes on to explain that:

We tried to state it a bit more forcefully in (Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised In Brief) where, on page 148, we said:

“All main motions which are moved during the course of a meeting (excepting only those which are withdrawn by the maker) should be recorded in the minutes.”

William J. Puette, Ph.D., Professional Registered Parliamentarian, states on his website that minutes should include: “all main motions (10) or motions to bring a main question again before the assembly (6:25–27; 34–37) that were made or taken up — except, normally, any that were withdrawn.”

Even “Robert’s Rules for Dummies” states that minutes should include: “All main motions (except ones that are withdrawn), along with the name of the member making the motion.”

In the past, the Anchorage School Board has used a Seattle-based group to help interpret Roberts Rules of Order. That group conflicts with the nationally recognized experts and believes unseconded motions do not need to be shown in minutes if the organization decides, but adds that to do so requires a vote by a two-thirds majority to not follow RRO. But according to a recent search, no such official vote is in the records of the Anchorage School Board.

The Fairbanks, Juneau, Ketchikan, Mat-Su, Sitka, and Kenai Peninsula school boards all record unseconded motions in their minutes. I have been advised that the Alaska Association of School Boards (AASB) may suggest other boards follow the Anchorage example. But in a recent conversation, a representative of the AASB denied that.

In fairness to the school board, I have learned that the Anchorage Assembly also does not record motions that die without a second. But there are important distinctions between the two bodies. The Assembly has 12 members elected from districts, while the school board has only seven members elected citywide. Failing to record motions by a member, only because they are not seconded, can seriously distort the record. This effectively disenfranchises one-seventh of the Board and the people who voted for them.

In fact, some Roberts Rules of Order experts opine that smaller boards of less than 12, should not even require a second for motions. A seven-member board is considered just large enough to possibly require a motion to be seconded. The danger of requiring a second on a small board is obvious — if there is a political imbalance you can effectively shut out a minority opinion.

The only justification I have heard articulated as to why seconded substantive motions should not be recorded in the minutes has been that people can watch the meetings on YouTube. Does that surpass the importance of a complete and fair written public record? The voters deserve to have an accurate historical record of the actions their elected school board members took.

Of additional concern is that as of Feb. 1, the November and Oct. 17, 2023, board meetings were not available on YouTube. The Dec. 5 meeting was a partial recording of the work session that day. The Oct. 17 meeting forced the viewer to wait through more than four minutes of commercials to access an incomplete recording of not the meeting, but instead the work session for that day. Most of these deficiencies have now been corrected, but clearly, relying on YouTube is failing to adequately provide a reliable official record.

At the Dec. 19, 2023, meeting, I moved to amend the Nov. 21, 2023, meeting minutes, to include two amendments I offered to the upcoming April 2024 bond proposition. One was to reduce the bonds by more than $19 million. The other was to ensure full information was provided to the voters about the cost of the new Inlet View Elementary School.

Unfortunately, my motion to include these amendments in the minutes and the debate regarding it will not be recorded in the minutes because they failed without a second.

Former Alaska Sen. Dave Donley is a lifelong Anchorage resident who served 16 years in the Alaska Legislature. The father of twins in the Anchorage School District, this is his third and final term on the Anchorage School Board. He writes this as a member of the Anchorage School Board, not on behalf of or intended to represent the School Board or the Anchorage School District.

16 COMMENTS

  1. The process ought to be clearly transparent as the kids, the money infrastructure the entire school district department belongs to the people not to the people that were elected to run it. They all need to be put on notice or put in jail.

    • Precisely! The School Board is not a club. It’s an elected body in which elected members represent their constituents, taxpayers and parents, NOT THE SCHOOL BOARD. Call this what it really is – a transparent and obvious end run around taxpayers and parents to hide the School Board’s actions. Totally unacceptable!

  2. Thank you for writing, Dave. And thank you for remaining standing, even if alone in the group. Their fear is as palpable as your boldness.

  3. Hardly matters now, Dave.
    .
    The last bit of school-board credibility evaporated when you and your cohorts chose to bail out the Teamsters and to award million-dollar contracts only to union-controlled contractors.
    .
    Who cares about minutes and motions when it’s a foregone conclusion that education-industry officials will get as much money as they want, whenever they want it, with no expectation of accountability?
    .
    Want “transparency”, why not move for a forensic audit of school district finances and management practices?
    .
    If by some parliamentary prestidigitation, such a motion doesn’t make the minutes, why not use your insider knowledge to initiate a qui tam lawsuit that’ll topple this racket, Dave?
    .
    Why waste time with parliamentary pranks when you could be a hero, a household name, independently wealthy?

  4. This solution comes down to apathetic community of non-voters. I believe that the majority of ‘Anchorage average joe voter’ would not put up with this nonsense but average joe has better things to do than inform him or herself. I am still trying to think through as to what shock treatment it will take to wake up folks to the alarming slope we are declining on.

    • They ain’t going to wake up until the government finally can’t pay them to keep their government jobs nor provide government assistance like in public assistance, Tanf, Snap, ihs, va benefits, Medicaid, Medicare, social security. It (the chaos) is coming…… wait for it. Part of me I am thankful a collapse hasn’t come and part of me I like it to come just to get the suspense of it over with.. .

    • The less a family is dependent on any money that comes from government from wages and benefits to assistance the more resilient that family will be to handle when this nations generations face what 1929 generations had to face in that year. People can survive any set back, the more independent a family is the likely they’ll survive better because their spirits will be stronger than those families who were dependent.

  5. Remember these are the same folks who bold-faced lied about proving porn to minors. Don’t believe in any “transparency” they might offer. They hide behind their positions and pervert reality to suit their ends.

  6. Considering the “President” of AASB is also the “President” of ASD, your advice from AASB is conflicted if you differ in opinion with Margo Bellamy. Another member of AASB’s board of directors is Andy Holleman.

    Personally, I’d like to see a lot less of my tax dollars going to shadow organizations like AASB which are really only layers of insulation for these people’s misdeeds. My extensive experience with AASB is they consistently give incorrect advice about Robert’s Rules and Meeting Minutes. Shameful.

  7. Fear not my fellow Taxpayers: Margo “the Trickster” Bellamy and her horde of devious board members (excluding Dave Donley the ONLY straight shooter on the board and the ONLY board member trying to protect our kids) will do everything possible to subvert and destroy what Anchorage had prior to Margo’s RULE.
    We are in the land of keep your mouth shut, do as I tell you, IF you don’t — a pox on you.–.
    Margo is our unquestioned leader to everything we do not need or want for ever more. Just keep reelecting these clowns OR KICKTHEM OUT to the curb.

  8. You want a complete and accurate record of any meeting? Buy a police quality body camera and record the meeting. Then the minutes won’t matter. A lesson I learned as a city councilman and mayor.

  9. Donley is not only the sharpest tool in the shed, he’s the only tool. The rest of them have IQs that match the childish twaddle scribbled on the walls in the shed. A pathetic bunch of dimwits.

  10. School board member Donley’s proposed amendments to discussion items do not qualify as “main motions” as he claims. Therefore, the minutes are not required to report his un-seconded motions.

  11. It seems as if the Anchorage School Board is acting just like the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, with a kinda “shadow banning”. Apparently, the school board should replace Robert’s Rules of Order with Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals’, which is much more applicable.

  12. It is going to be a sad day when Mr Donley’s term is up. He is the only competent school board member. A sad state of affairs. Shame on us Anchorage citizens for allowing members with awful agendas take over our schools and our most precious members, our children and future leaders!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.