Source: Sherman Publications

School board split after 4.5-hour meeting

by Phil Custodio

April 30, 2014

Communications was a focus of Monday's school board meeting.

Board Secretary Craig Hamilton introduced a motion near the end of an almost five-hour-long meeting, April 28, for the board president to direct Superintendent Dr. Rod Rock to provide information to board members as requested.

"I donít think I get information in a timely manner," said Hamilton.

Rosalie Lieblang, board president, agreed information is sometimes not provided when desired. Some of her requests for budget information have not been delivered satisfactorily.

"Sometimes I get the information and sometimes I donít," she said.

The superintendent said administration provides more than enough information to the school board, and Hamilton's motion and statements at the meeting, as well as recent comments in The Clarkston News, have been frustrating and insulting ("School board members focus on operations," March 26).

"People probably enjoy ticking me off. I find it offensive," Rock said. "It's not how I would treat people. If you want to, fine."

Trustee Steven Hyer said the motion should have been placed on the agenda for discussion prior to the meeting. He made a motion to table the discussion, but it failed, 4-3. Hyer, and trustees Cheryl McGinnis and Elizabeth Egan voted to table, while Lieblang, Hamilton, board Vice President Sue Boatman, and Treasurer Joan Patterson voted against.

Hamiltonís motion failed, 4-3, with Boatman, Egan, Hyer, and McGinnis voting "no." A motion by Hyer to adjourn the meeting, then about 11 p.m., failed,4-3, with Boatman, Hamilton, Lieblang, and Patterson voting against, and discussion continued.

Patterson said more discussion on the boardís strategic plan may be needed.

"There is a lot of disagreement on the table Ė we need to keep working on it," she said. "We need to get on the same page."

They should consider standard question-and-answer templates on budget and other issues to clarify exactly what information is requested and when, she said.

Hyer, who also provided running commentary on Twitter during the meeting, said board members were micromanaging.

"We might as well appoint Rosalie superintendent," said the trustee, who posted dozens of tweets under hashtags such as "lackoftransparency," "outofcontrol," "trusttheadministration," "theyareexperts," and "budgetdiscussiongonewrong."

Egan, who posted about a dozen tweets during the meeting, said the board should make information requests collectively.

"Our authority resides in the entire board Ė I donít think it's fair to the administration to have seven individuals asking for information," she said. "It chews up resources."

The superintendent said administration also spent time dealing with "misinformation" in The Clarkston News articles on the strategic plan, particularly those by Hamilton criticizing him.

"It would be wonderful if this worked both ways Ė if there's a misunderstanding, not to have to read about it in the paper," Rock said. "It doesnít seem positive, school board members making negative comments about the superintendent."

For example, in the April 2 article "$1M surplus kicks off long-term school finance planning," Hamilton stated, "The limit on how much money can be spent before board approval is just over $20,000. It is shocking how many transactions are just below that amount, and who knows how many are broken up into multiple smaller transactions to avoid having to get board approval for purchases; essentially circumventing the board and board approval.Ē

Rock said this does not happen.

"The information is not accurate," he said.

Patterson said she is concerned about the superintendent's interpretation of the comments.

"I'm afraid, going forward, more things will be perceived differently," the treasurer said.

McGinnis, who said the discussion shouldn't have happened the way it did, walked out of the meeting at 11:38 p.m., about 10 minutes before it adjourned.

"I'm done," she said.

Lieblang said she will create a new section in future agendas for information requests.

"If board members feel they're not getting information, we'll put it on the agenda and discuss it at the board meeting," she said.