Monday, August 23, 2010

Tall Tale Terry

On Monday August 9, school board member--and acting president-- Terry Shimek professed that he was "offended" by remarks made by community resident Rick Mealy.

Tall tales
During his tongue-lashing, Mr. Shimek told --for the TV cameras and the general public-- the very tall tale that he had "taken Mr. Mealy out to lunch and had several phone conversations with him regarding the Finance Committee".  That didn't happen, Mr. Shimek...and (unless senility is rushing in) YOU KNOW IT!  Without a doubt Mr. Mealy told us that you told him that you PLANNED to take him out to lunch, as you had the other citizen representative.  But...and perhaps because you were a tad miffed that the SP-EYE blog exposed another tall tale...said lunch meeting never was scheduled.  Can you tell the public WHEN and WHERE you and Mr. Mealy had this alleged lunch?  Of course not...because it did not happen.

Those phone calls
Now tell the truth, Mr. Shimek...isn't it also true that the only time you spoke with Mr. Mealy on the phone was in returning HIS call to YOU last September regarding the board meeting of 9/14/09? Is it all coming back to you now?  Remember the subject: how you voted on the issue of whether or not to use $183,060 of fund balance to pay the issuance cost of the Qualified School Construction Bond dated 9/28/09.

Allow us refresh your memory:

Mr. Shimek KNOWs that was the only time he spoke with Mealy by phone.  Actually, after Mr. Mealy had had enough of Shimek, his wife spoke with Shimek for about 45 minutes.  It's a wonder Shimek has any backside at all left after the butt-chewing he received that night.

We understand how easy it must be to forget that you never took someone to lunch when you can't even recall how you voted on a $183.000 issue!

The thing about tall tales is that the devil is in the details.  Once you started providing details to the fairy tale (all the phone calls, the lunch, the orientation you provided during these "events"), you were trapped.

Do NOT tell us fairy tales, Mr. Shimek.  Save those for bedtime stories for your grandkids.
Would you prefer "Shimekkio"?
The text of Mr. Mealy's statement to the board is provided below.  Mr. Mealy emphasized three main points:

1. Board Policy () requires that citizen representatives be nominated by the board president for approval by the full board.  How can the latter occur if the appointments are presented on the agenda as "Information Only" (no action) items as was done for the 8-9-10 agenda.?

2. Mr. Mealy also pointed out that board committee chairs SHALL provide citizen representatives with orientation.  Mealy stated that in terms on both the FTT and Finance Committees, no orientation (or discussion whatsoever regarding duties) was provided.

3. If the board doesn't follow it's own "rules" (policies) why should staff or students?

" The Board shall appoint the citizen members of each committee upon nomination of the Board President. If one or more Board members need to discuss substantive issues related to the appointment of committee members and such discussion might reasonably be construed to have an adverse impact on the reputation of specific persons, the Board may convene in closed session as permitted by law to consider such information. The closed session will be held prior to the nomination(s) being considered by the Board in open session. " 
--Board Policy BCE (clearly showing intent that board members discuss and vote on nominations)

Statement from Rick Mealy 8/9/2010
First, I wish to thank the board for allowing me the honor of serving as a citizen representative on the Finance committee for the past 2 years.  Appointment of citizen representatives to committees is offered as an "Informational Item" tonight instead of "New Business" or "Consent Items".  A fine slate of individuals is being nominated from a very qualified pack.  Unfortunately, you do these people a disservice by failing to follow your policies, just as you did last year.  One would have hoped that you would have learned from your past mistakes.

These appointments have historically been --as required by your policy BCE-- voted on by the full board under New Business.
In fact, policy BCE states, "The Board shall appoint the citizen members of each committee upon nomination of the Board President".
How can the Board "appoint" without a vote???  Or was their a closed session that wasn't noticed? 

Imagine the position you would put one of these citizen representatives in if they had already participated fully in a committee meeting prior to being formally appointed by the board!.  One cannot expect new citizen representatives to be familiar with the details of board policies. But we do expect it of you.

Policy also dictates that citizen representatives are provided with an orientation to their new role.  And if it doesn’t happen before they start…what’s the point really?  So I hope you’ll schedule orientation for new committee members before they participate in a committee meeting.  I served on two board committees without ever receiving a moment of orientation, so that has been another weak area for you. 

Perhaps your excuse is that you simply ran out of time; terms begin August 1 and you were still interviewing candidates after the last board meeting.   But that Hail Mary would land out of bounds. Like the old adage goes, "Poor planning on your part does not allow you to break the rules to meet deadlines."

Some of you may be inclined to think, "What's the big deal?  These are just committee appointments."  But it's not that simple. 

Serving as a Citizen Representative is often a proving ground of sorts for future school board many of you board members know.  This IS important....if not to you, then certainly to the citizen representatives.  They want it done right.  So should you.

It's one thing to write policy, but it's a horse of completely different color to actually follow them.
And if you have such a hard time following your policies, what is the use of even having them?

If the board does not follow it's own "rules", how can it expect staff members to follow district policies?
How can anyone expect students to follow rules in the Student Handbooks?
Or is it just a case of "this one we have to follow....that one...not so much?"

You rightfully take pride in the district's bond rating, but that rating is in part related to perceived strength in fiscal management policies. 
How do you think that perception may change if you continue to ignore your policies? 
What if an underwriter concludes that while you have nice policies, they're worthless because you don't follow them?

One of the underlying allegations in the district's upcoming arbitration hearing regarding the removal of girls basketball coaches is that the district did not follow its policies.  Is there really any surprise to that?   I wonder how much these continued incidents of failure to follow policy may further erode the district's position in the arbitration hearing?  And that decision could cost the taxpayers a lot of money.

The bottom line is that failure to adhere to board policy is just another symptom of the real illness:  lack of accountability.
And it starts at the top.  If you want people to be accountable, you must lead by example.