How Exactly do the BSD Board Meetings Work...
Updated: Dec 10, 2021
There is potentially an important meeting coming up on Monday Dec 13 at 6pm.
Rumor has it that a change in covid protocol may be on the 12/13/21 board meeting agenda so keep your eyes out and we'll update you soon after the agenda is posted.
We thought you might be interested in how the Boise Schools District Meetings work.
We're certainly not experts, but this is our very basic understanding of the process. All board meeting policies may be found in the 1400 section of the District Policy Manual, past board meetings are viewable on the BSD YouTube channel and past agendas are accessible here.
Meeting and Workshop Schedules and Agenda
Boise School board meetings are scheduled on the second Monday of the month at 6:00pm unless otherwise noted (the summer meetings often start at 5:30pm, for example). The schedule link also provides general information about board meetings.
The agenda and supporting documents are posted online by 6:00pm the Friday before (in accordance with Idaho Open Meeting Law), but often are posted by COB Thursday evening with supporting documents uploaded during the day on Friday. The agenda is usually set about a week before the board meeting with requests for agenda items due the Monday prior. For more information on board agenda items or how the agenda is set, click here.
Eight times a year, the trustees hold a workshop from 12-4pm on the 4th Friday of the month. These workshops are intended to give the district and the trustees time to work together on and discuss more in-depth topics/issues. No votes are taken, but often the results of the workshop are presented at a future board meeting for a vote.
Viewing and Attendance
The board meetings are live-streamed (workshops are not) and in-person attendance is typically permitted, but has been curtailed in various ways since the start of covid and is currently still capped at 20 attendees. Reservations may be made with the board clerk (Sharon.Mast@boiseschools.org) and any unreserved seats are filled on a first-come-first-served basis.
All notes on the upcoming board meeting are published on the board agenda website in advance of the meeting (attendance cap, mask requirement, etc.).
The current meeting attendance cap is curious because there was no attendance limit due to COVID at the 8/3/21 special board meeting or the 8/9/21 regular board meeting even though the COVID case numbers are lower at the time of this post than they were in August AND no state, city or district protocol have changed since the 8/9/21 meeting.
Our theory is that seeing a roomful of parents (wearing yellow) at the August board meeting was uncomfortable for them so this is a convenient way to avoid the visual impact of a subset of people who are unhappy with their policies.
*Photo from Idaho Statesman
Normally, in accordance with District Policy 1441, oral testimony is accepted and subject to limitations such as, but not limited to: must pertain to agenda items, must sign up with the clerk, may speak for only a set amount of time, etc.
BSD is currently violating their own policy since they have not allowed oral testimony at any board meeting since June, with the exception of the Aug 9 meeting where COVID was not on the agenda. The district is currently justifying their prohibition on oral testimony by stating that Open Meeting Law does not require them to accept oral testimony (which is true). Their own district policy 1441, however, is called "Audience Participation at Regular Board Meetings" and specifically states "The Board recognizes the value of public comment on educational issues and the importance of involving members of the public in its meetings. Individuals wishing to be heard by the Board shall sign up with the Clerk of the Board...".
Written testimony used to be accepted simply by e-mailing the board clerk by 12:00pm the day of the meeting. At the 11/8/21 board meeting, however, a new form was introduced as a tool to collect public comment on agenda items in advance of a board meeting. It was pitched as a way to streamline the process and alleviate stress on the board clerk (which we are in full support of), but the process is likely to discourage written testimony, particularly dissenting testimony.
Why do we think that? First of all, Policy 1441 is referenced to limit the testimony provided. When one is speaking during a meeting, if the testimony becomes abusive, repetitive, etc. in violation of Policy 1441, a person can be stopped and potentially redirected. Even if the speaker can't be redirected and their testimony is terminated, the board has still had the opportunity to hear part of the testimony. With written testimony, there is no opportunity for redirection and the disqualifying items are somewhat subjective. Is one off-color word enough to discard the entire testimony so the board doesn't see any of it? What is considered "repetitive" or "personally directed"? It's unclear...
The board also reserves the right to read written testimony aloud during board meetings. This presumably allows them to only read approving testimony and not dissenting testimony. Furthermore, one must submit a physical address (presumably to verify residency) but the board also reserves the right to read one's address aloud along with their testimony during the meeting. This is a major discouraging factor, especially to someone who is providing a dissenting testimony. To have one's address read aloud and recorded on YouTube along with their potentially controversial testimony is a major safety concern for any patron regardless of viewpoint. This in and of itself discourages public testimony just based on the unknown and potentially dangerous consequences.
Overview of Meeting Order of Business
The meetings all follow the same order of business. The consent agenda items, although the longest category on the agenda, are usually very short because the trustees are approving items which are consistent, such as bills paid, financial reports, enrollment reports, etc. If something requires a change, it is not included in this section. For example, at the 10/11/21 meeting, the board approved the 21/22 academic calendar with the consent agenda items because no changes were being proposed. If a schedule change were proposed (such as when the academic calendar was shifted back a week in 2018), it would not appear in this section of the agenda.
There's often fun stuff in the meetings like the Red Apple Award (award to a district staff member) or updates from students during the meetings.
"Reports and Recommendations" and "Other Business" usually consume the majority of the time during the meeting. These are typically presentations by district personnel, but sometimes can be from other people or organizations. For example, the Harris family was part of a presentation about the new elementary school for the Harris Ranch area and Stoltz Marketing Group gave a presentation on the Everything's Possible Campaign. The board has the opportunity to ask the presenter questions and there is sometimes a discussion that takes place. The audience is not allowed to ask questions or participate in the discussion. Some items like policy revisions require a first and second reading before a vote can be taken so they will be on the agenda at least twice before a vote is taken.
An ACTION ITEM means the board will take a vote. BSD board typically votes in unison, which seems to be atypical for most boards. In many other (non-BSD) board meetings, the board will ask tough questions of the presenter, there will be in-depth discussion and often debate between the board members and there is sometimes or even often a split vote. What we've seen on our board is that the district will give a presentation and recommendation, the board will ask questions and have a discussion that affirms the information presented/recommended and then the board votes in unison to approve what was just presented/recommended. While it is great that the board members have a good working relationship with each other and with the district administrators and superindendency, this apparent unity throughout the process is a bit disquieting even though it makes the board meetings much more peaceful and less hectic. Boards are supposed to represent the community and provide a level of accountability and oversight to the organization they govern. Our board seems to work in tandem with the district instead so that extra level of accountability seems to be lacking.
Sometimes the board will go into executive session, or a private meeting. This is limited to certain circumstances where the details cannot be discussed publicly, such as with regards to legal matters, superintendent salary, etc.
The board members and superintendent are given the opportunity to make any further comments and then the meeting is adjourned.
Oftentimes, the board members and district administrators will visit with attendees and answer questions after the meeting.
Cartoon by Dana Summers
Boise Schools District meetings are pretty benign and not like school board meetings we've all seen on social media, mostly because they have taken away our right to oral testimony and capped the attendance to 20.
Reach out to the board, tell them your story regarding the masks in your child school.
They need to hear from us...
See our video and sign the Mask Optional petition on our website.