By TIM BARTO
Dave Donley is in an unenviable position, and Tuesday’s Board meeting exemplified that. As the only conservative member on the seven-member Anchorage School Board, he is almost always alone in his efforts to bring common sense to an organization that can never seem to find enough money to spend or union leaders to placate.
During a Nov. 21 board meeting, Donley proposed two amendments that were not seconded and, therefore, not brought to a vote. When reviewing the minutes of that meeting, he noticed that his proposed amendments were not even entered into the official written record, so he inquired of the Board secretary as to the reason for the omissions. Her response was that proposed amendments that fail to get seconded are not reflected in the minutes.
With a desire to maintain the District’s core principle of transparency, and with a firm belief that all substantive amendments should be in the record, he requested that the minutes be tabled so the Board secretary could put them into the record.
That idea didn’t go over so well with President Margo Bellamy or the rest of the Board and, in a twist of great irony, his motion to table the minutes was not seconded; therefore, neither it nor the discussion of the topic would be entered into the minutes of this Dec. 19 meeting. Donley found humor in that fact and was able to joke about it to eternally-opposed colleagues, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t find the whole matter aggravating and just plain wrong.
Tuesday’s discussion contained an often disorientingamalgamation of the words “minutes, amendments, and motions,” and all members, regardless of their placement on the political spectrum, deserve credit for keeping it all straight and somewhat understandable. Dave kept his cool and his manners in check, and for that he is to be commended.
Truthfully, he is to be commended for much of what he does,particularly being willing to run for an office in which he knows he will be outnumbered and then standing up for what he believes in while being constantly being isolated (at best) or ignored and attacked (at worst).
What concerns Dave is the fact that substantive matters of discussion will not be a matter of record, and with important and difficult budget decisions looming on the horizon, Board members can more easily hide their opinions and votes – or, more appropriately, their decisions not to vote – from the official record. If he proposes an amendment that would curtail spending, rankle the teachers’ union, or more likely both, then a simple collective act of not seconding his amendment will be hidden.
President Bellamy and member Carl Jacobs brought up the fact that all Board meetings are videorecorded and available via the District’s website. True enough, and if an interested citizen has the time to search through a couple hours of titillating school board discussions, then that hardy individual will be rewarded with video clip; but the discussion and decision not to second the motion will not be in an official written record.
Dave Donley wants the public to understand the process the Board undergoes, and he wants the members’ words and decisions to be on the record, and for them to be held accountable. He also needs to know he is not alone in his efforts to bring sanity and integrity to the Anchorage School Board. If you appreciate his work, let him know and help him out: attend meetings, speak up, and elect good people to the School Board.
Tim Barto is vice president of Alaska Family Council and a regular contributor to Must Read Alaska.