Possible policy changes stir up controversy at LOCS board meeting

By Megan Kelley

Review Writer

The Lake Orion Community School Board of Education met on Nov. 20 for their regularly scheduled meeting and discussed the first reading of several policy revisions.

One of the more divisive recommendations to come from the policy committee included boardmember remote participation.

“Policy 0100, that is a recommendation from the policy committee to implement board member remote participation in board meetings,” said Trustee Jake Singer. “The committee felt that all board members are professional so that we did not need rules for remote participation spelled out in there. The board member would need to contact the board president and the superintendent 24 hours in advance so the logistics of making a connection could be worked out. This provision will apply to closed and open sessions. Obviously the board member would need to use discretion on how they might interact remotely with regards to situations involving closed sessions, like student or employee disciplinary hearings, and the board member would be allowed to participate in all of those.”

The state of Michigan requires districts to provide remote participation for military members. Because of this requirement, the LOCS policy committee decided to open it up and allow other members to participate remotely as well. The example being: board members who are away on business.

Treasurer Jim Weidman, who has been particularly vocal about his opposition to opening up the policy, stated that he would like to hear from local districts that already have this policy in place before he would vote to approve the policy.

Secretary Dana Mermell raised concerns regarding the lack of guidelines should this policy be approved.

“My concern isn’t our board right now. I can say that people are professional…but you don’t know who is being elected after us,” said Mermell. “I just feel like there can be a really slippery slope with things if we don’t have things kind of spelled out. I mean, there could be someone that just says all the time, ‘I’m not going to show up.’”

Singer indicated that he and other members of the policy committee, Trustee Nate Butki and Vice President Scott Taylor, discussed that kind of scenario, stating that in that situation, voters would be able to remove that individual.

“To simply not allow it because we’re afraid of something that might happen in the future — we were the other way that said ‘we should be a leader, we should try this and if it doesn’t work we can revoke it,’” said Singer.

Trustee Steve Drakos suggested that the board’s current policy, or lack there of, works fine with regards to members who have had to leave town on business.

“As an elected official I have some serious concerns about this. If I have a person standing up at the podium, I believe the citizen who elected us has the right to look you in the eye and talk to you, cross examine you…We have rules that have been set for many years for a reason,” Drakos said. “I don’t know if you’re having a cocktail when you’re out there remotely or doing other things while you’re jamming away on your computer.”

Butki chimed in to reiterate that because the rules are required to be in place for service members, why not apply the same kind of template to other board members.

“This policy came to the policy committee from NEOLA as it is following the law the legislature in Michigan established for the military,” said President Birgit McQuiston. “Subsequently, NOELA, if I’m not mistaken…it also included a suggestion to take it beyond the military…What we’re seeing in our board packet tonight is what the policy committee has worked on coming out of that NEOLA policy.”

McQuiston added that MASB (Michigan Association of School Boards) also supports this policy and that the policy was borne out of the need to allow remote participation in order to get people to be on school boards in more rural areas.

According to McQuiston, the Troy school district currently allows remote participation.

Several board members requested additional information on the policy, including hearing from districts that currently have the policy in place.

Because of this, the board pulled policy 0100 from the reading and will bring it back when more information can be provided.

Also in the meeting:

Superintendent search firms

Board members reviewed RFP responses from five search firms: Michigan Association of School boards, Michigan Leadership Institute, Metro Bureau, Hazard and Young Associates and Ray and Associates.

The board discussed which firm that they liked the most and which they liked the least, hoping to narrow the search down to the board’s top three and extending an invite to the board’s special meeting on Dec. 11 where they would essentially be interviewed by the board.

Both Drakos and Weidman were not opposed to extending invites to all five firms; however, Mermell raised concerns that interviewing all five would just “muddy the waters.”

The search firms chosen to attend the special meeting were: Michigan Association of School boards, Michigan Leadership Institute and Ray and Associates.