Committee looks at meeting agendas

Published 10:33 pm Monday, October 28, 2019

The School Board’s Policy Review Committee is looking to ensure that agendas get to the board and public in a timely manner.

Board Vice Chairwoman Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck, who along with Sherri Story serves on the committee, noted that agendas typically have been provided to the board and to the public a week ahead of time. But with an illness in the family of the board’s clerk, Cynthia Chavis — who has since resigned — she had not been able to get those out in a timely manner, and, at the board’s last regular meeting earlier in October, Tyron Riddick noted that he felt unprepared to vote on matters before the board because members had only received the agenda packets earlier that day.

“The reality is, we used to get this a week in advance,” Brooks-Buck said. “It’s been of late, and we understand the situation because the person responsible was sick and had sickness in her family.”

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Riddick requested that something be put in policy that would provide the board with the meeting packets at least one week ahead of a meeting.

Board attorney Wendell Waller said he drafted language that would accomplish that.

Brooks-Buck said she didn’t care if the language was included to have the agendas a week in advance, but said that if it was, that board members would not be able to add any last-minute agenda items.

“There are some positives and some negatives with regard to that,” Brooks-Buck said. “If you ask for information and you want that information and you think it ought to be discussed, if it’s not there in time for the printing, which will probably be about two weeks, ‘cause to get the packet together it’s going to take time, and then to have it ready to pass out to everybody’s going to take time, so I have no problem with establishing the rules if we’re going to follow them. If you’re not going to follow the rule, then it’s pretty much a wash.”

Story called the idea an excellent one, though she said she would be fine with a three-day requirement, per the Freedom of Information Act. However, Waller said it was his understanding that FOIA did not require such notice.

Under Virginia Code, notice of a meeting must be made at least three days prior to the meeting, though copies of the proposed agenda and agenda packets “shall be made available for public inspection at the same time such documents are furnished to the members of the public body.”

Brooks-Buck said that if the board would not live with the one-week rule for agenda packets, “it’s just a waste of air.” Story said the board was “not living with the law now.”

“I have no problem with it … if we’re going to follow it,” Brooks-Buck said. “And if we’re going to follow it, just know that if this has to be done a week in advance and we put it in policy, meaning somebody can be disciplined for it, that means that the material is going to have to be in, processed and ready to go at least a week before. So I can live with that.”

“I can too, as long as it’s enforced and someone’s disciplined for it,” Story replied.

Brooks-Buck said that if anyone wants to add something to the agenda after it has been given to the board and the public, it would have to wait until the following month. She said that if Riddick and the rest of the board can live with a policy of having the agendas given to the board  a week in advance, she would be fine with it.

Brooks-Buck recommended that the policy state the agendas would be given to the board and made public at least a week in advance, while Story recommended three days, saying the jump to seven days “would be a big leap” from no accountability and coming out hours before a meeting, to having it come out a week before the meeting.

Waller said this would come up for a first reading at the board’s Nov. 14 meeting.

“I do think this is a board governance issue,” Waller said, “as to how soon you want the agenda packet to be made available.”