There’s a new tone at Ramona school board meetings

When Jim Robinson was on the water board, he had a reputation for pulling financial reports off the consent calendar so he could ask questions about specific expenditures. It didn’t take long, the questions were straightforward, and the public appreciated an elected official who had taken the time to scour through the financial pages and who asked public questions at a public meeting. He was one of us, elected by us to represent us.

That never happened at school board meetings — at least in recent history — until last Thursday, when Trustee Kim Lasley pulled expense items off the consent calendar and asked questions that even fellow trustees said they appreciated. (A consent calendar contains a number of items that a board approves in one vote without discussion.)

Trustee John Rajcic at the board’s May 16 meeting had asked that expense items on the consent calendar be pulled for discussion. His motion failed for lack of a second. The change in board attitude over the past four months is positive.

That wasn’t the only change the public witnessed at the Sept. 19 meeting. Trustee Rodger Dohm demanded a detailed plan before he votes to spend the nearly $1.2 million the state will give the district over the next two years to implement Common Core State Standards — a new way of teaching and testing that a reported 45 states have approved.

Supportive of common core, Dohm doesn’t want efforts or money wasted. When details are available, he wants time to review them before voting, and he and other trustees want a workshop so the public can ask questions and understand a program he believes can better prepare students for 21st century careers.

To top off the evening, Trustee Bob Stoody, this year’s board president, insisted the district not hire an energy consultant if staff can supply the expertise. If district staff believes hiring a consultant is necessary, he wants it on the agenda as a discussion/possible action item, not on the consent calendar, and he wants as little money as possible spent.

In the heat of budget negotiations with teachers in April, the consent calendar included spending $32,500 on consulting services, and the board approved it. Trustee John Rajcic at the next meeting asked that his “yes” vote be changed to “no,” saying he believes board discussions and questions should have preceded the vote.

Something’s changed on the board. It’s not the trustees as individuals. It’s the group as a unit. The board is more open and receptive to the public, and it seems more comfortable with itself.

The community workshop in August, other meetings trustees have attended, failure of the district’s bond measure in November 2012, formation of Ramona Parents Coalition and perhaps the formation of Friends of Ramona Unified Schools, and even the acrimonious dispute with the teachers union last school year contributed.

Maybe it’s as simple as public involvement.

Whatever it is, we hope it’s genuine and we hope it continues.

Related posts:

  1. Ramona trustees may try again for a school bond
  2. School administrators drop 5 days from agreement
  3. State allocates $1.17 million to Ramona school district to implement Common Core
  4. School board approves emergency measures as district braces for possible teachers strike
  5. School board president calls for town meeting

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Posted by Maureen Robertson on Oct 1 2013. Filed under Archive, Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

1 Comment for “There’s a new tone at Ramona school board meetings”

  1. Ramona Resident

    This is very good news! If this is, in fact, a true change in the Board's attitude, then it is welcome. This is what residents have been asking for all along; a thoughtful consideration of expenses rather than a rubber-stamp Board. Had the Board taken this approach the past few years, I am certain that the district's finances would be in much better shape than they are now. If the Board continues with this thoughful consideration, the chances of the community trusting the district with bond funding will increase significantly. I, for one, am hopeful this new approach will continue.

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