Wenatchee- Wenatchee School Board member, Laura Jaecks is using social media to share her concerns about policy changes sought by three newly elected board members.
Sara Knox, Sunny Hemphill and Michelle Sandberg attended their first board meeting last week and immediately called for a change that would make them eligible to serve as board officers. Currently a board member cannot serve as an officer unless a majority of the board has been appointed.
In her Facebook post Jaecks says,
“Quite a few folks have asked how, as a veteran board member now in the minority, I’m feeling about the situation. The answer is evolving.
The new members proposed a modification to Policy No. 1210 removing the wording: ‘A newly elected or appointed board member will not be eligible to serve as an officer unless a majority of the board has been appointed.’ They also wanted to waive Policy 1320 which requires a second reading of policy before adoption. Luckily, the district legal counsel strongly advised against this waiver. Thus the amendment to 1210 will be an action item on the December 12th agenda. I’ve been informed that their intention is to nominate two of the three to the position of Chair and Vice Chair. The stated reason is control of the agenda. I have an opinion about that and another proposal. A compromise.
The truth is that the agenda is not controlled by any single person or even by the majority. As odd as that sounds it take just one person to request an item be placed on the agenda. The officers do not have the ability to refuse to add any requested item to the agenda. If an item is requested it is added.
There isn’t much to be gained if the power play succeeds. In fact I believe there are some real dangers in having new board members sweep the leadership roles. I feel the proposal is ill conceived and potentially detrimental to the district. None of the incoming members has served in an elected position. Our district has hundreds of employees, multiple unions, thousands of students and an $80 million annual operating budget. Not to mention a transportation department driving thousands of miles and fourteen aging buildings to maintain or replace. The Wenatchee Education Association contract is coming up for negotiation soon and we have a $130 million bond proposal on the ballot in April. Our Chief Financial Officer is due to retire soon. This is a key position that we need to recruit a highly skilled pool of candidates for. We need all the members on the board working together on these critical areas.
There is so much to learn. The success of our district in any of the above endeavors has a much greater likelihood of success in a district that does not have the appearance of being in conflict and turmoil. The candidates campaigned on a message of change. The changes they propose have yet to be seen. The proposals are likely to be borne out of intensive study and discussion with the whole board, the staff and the public. Careful consideration to the needs of the individual students balanced with consideration to potential ripple effects through the system and the community is crucial to meaningful change.
The truth of the matter is that we all have quite a lot in common. I believe we all share passion to build and support an educational system in our community that will assist all students in reaching their full potential. I’ve personally been working towards that goal for almost fifteen years now. Believe me there’s much to learn about systems change when it comes to a complex organization such as the Wenatchee School District. There are lots of things going well in our district and there are opportunities for improvement. I think we all agree on that, too.
I am open to change and improvement. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and work alongside these new members and our staff for the benefit of our student’s success and the betterment of our community.
I propose a shared leadership approach as a compromise. I propose that a veteran board member be nominated and elected to the position of Chair and that a newbie be nominated and elected as the vice chair. This will give the vice chair a year to learn the district and then take over the chair position in one years’ time.
I also propose that the new leadership team make a joint statement to the community committing to work together for the betterment of the district. We can emphasize that this shared arrangement will involve robust, transparent discussion of any issue on the agenda. It does not mean that we will agree on all the issues, it does not imply that anyone is compromising their individual rights to vote as their conscience dictates.
The new members were duly elected. I am not disputing that. I am proposing prudence in moving through this transition to maintain the stability our district needs to thrive.
This matter will be on the December 12 agenda 6PM. If you have an opinion you’d like to share on this topic please e-mail me the board or the superintendent before that date. Thank you for your support over the years it has been an honor to serve as your representative. Jaecks.email@example.com
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