Sonia Delgadillo: Communication, community input not a priority for Nevada Joint Union board of trustees
The Nevada Joint Union High School District Board held a special meeting on July 20 where it voted on important issues, yet notice about the meeting was difficult to come by and no media reported on the outcome. The following decisions impact our students.
First, though just a month earlier the district submitted a budget and LCAP (which identifies educational priorities) for public comment and a vote, at this meeting, a new expenditure of nearly $230,000 for Chromebooks was approved. This will come from additional one-time funding of $530 per student the state approved in June and added they had a plan for the remainder of these funds which they will present in August. District staff stated this funding came as a surprise in June implying that there was no opportunity for public input. The legislation is clear — as part of the new funding formula, the community is to have input into development of educational priorities.
And as was pointed out at the meeting, the state final budget always comes out in June, so the district with planning and effort is capable of including community input for any additions or reductions that might occur. That the district would make and the board would approve plans for $1.4 million without any opportunity for public input is in violation of the spirit and possibly the letter of the law.
Second, the district proposed that the recently vacated position of assistant superintendent of student services position not be replaced, but a new position be created and responsibilities reorganized. The rationale was it was not necessary to have two assistant superintendents and costs would decrease. However, the new position is on a salary scale that is nearly the same as assistant superintendent. So while the position has a different title and a slightly reworked job description, there appears to be virtually no cost savings. When one trustee said there were long-term projections which indicated cost savings, the assistant superintendent for business appeared to joke that perhaps not until she retired. When asked in follow-up for data on these projections and savings due to anticipated retirements, the district would not provide information.
Third, the district increased the position of assistant superintendent for business from 0.8 to 1.0 for the 2015/16 school year. When asked about the purpose of this increase, the district responded to “invest in capacity.” When asked what new projects, assignments, or responsibilities would warrant a 25 percent increase in job and salary, the district would not provide any information except to say that the position would help with reorganization due to the resignation of the other assistant superintendent. When asked to clarify how a position in business services could support curriculum and student services (which require specialized education and experience), no explanation could be given. And when asked why the district would increase administrative costs at the district office next year, when significant cuts had recently been made to administration at school sites the response was to repeat the need for capacity.
Finally, while it is up to the community to educate itself on local education issues and individuals should make up their own minds about these issues, they cannot easily do so if information is not readily available. No one could have easily known about this meeting. The district pays handsomely for information technology, yet didn’t use it for telephone or email blasts or school bulletin capabilities.
It was not posted on school websites and not even on the main page or calendar of the district website. One needed to go to the district website, then “Our District” tab, the “Board of Trustees” tab, then “Board Info,” then “CSBA Online Agenda” link, and finally look on the right-hand side for any new meeting. So, an interested party would need to do all this daily to find out about any special meetings.
Issues of transparency, communication, and collaboration with the public have been raised many times over the years. The answer has been, “we’ve met our legal obligation.” So yes, the district met the minimum legal requirement by posting this special meeting and documents on an obscure page on its website. But in the education field, we consider the minimum requirements to be “D” work. We strive for excellence from our students and expect the same from their leaders.
The NJUHSD and Board of Trustees should immediately institute procedures for 1) communication of all public meetings and relevant information and 2) genuine opportunity for community input as required by law.
Sonia Delgadillo lives in Alta Sierra.
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