Saturday, December 28, 2019

First Worcester School Committee meetings of the new term (and a few notes from me)

The first Worcester School Committee agendas of the new term are posted, as the first meetings of the year take place over the course of the inauguration evening:
  1. The Committee meets before the meeting to draw seats and to take a straw poll on the position of vice chair (the Worcester School Committee elects their own vice chair each year). The seats, for those not familiar with Worcester's arrangement, are assigned for the two year term in the Esther Howland Chamber at City Hall, where the City Council also meets: 
    Because the Council has eleven members including the mayor, there are ten desks (the Mayor chairs all meetings from the dais), of which the School Committee uses six.
    The straw poll for vice chair is a dry run for the actual vote which takes place during the ceremony.
  2. During the Inauguration, the Committee votes for vice chair for the year. The rules of the Committee say:
    A Vice-Chairperson shall be chosen for the year ensuing from the members of the School Committee by a vive voca vote, each member present answering to his name when called by the Clerk or other proper officer, stating the name of the person for whom he votes, or that he declines to vote. The Clerk or other proper such official shall record every vote. 
    In Worcester, the School Committee vice chair has no independent authority; they simply run the meeting when the Mayor isn't there (which, to his credit, isn't often under Joe Petty's mayoralty). 
  3. After the Inauguration, the Committee votes to accept "the policies and by-laws of the previous School Committee to be in force until changes are accepted," so they have something under which to continue to meet. 
As it happens, we'll already be violating the rules, as they also say that the organizational meeting is to take place on the first Monday in January. Instead, of course, the meeting is on this coming Thursday; it's less of an issue as the meeting will simply have taken place already. 

As the School Committee members get an email when an agenda is posted, my plan is to post links to those on my School Committee Facebook page as well as on Twitter (as I did here); I've missed more than one subcommittee meeting in the past due simply to not knowing it was scheduled, so I'll do my best to help with getting that information out.

While I do plan to continue to post a gloss of at least the full Committee meetings here, as I have for...years, at this point, there may be a bit of a change, as I began to note over here, and I want to talk a little bit about why.
The code of ethics under which school committee members in Massachusetts operate, found in full here, has two pieces that, in my mind, particularly are relevant around social media and serving as a member: 
  • under "relations with administration," one is to "[r]efer all complaints to the administrative staff for solution and only discuss them at Committee meetings if such solutions fail." I frame this as "don't stick it on an agenda if you can do it with a phone call," but it also means that complaints, as a member, go to those who can fix them, not to the larger universe, unless that becomes necessary. Frankly, I'd always rather have things fixed than make it a point that I had anything to do with the fixing, so you may see fewer public Worcester concerns here and elsewhere online. Please know that doesn't mean they aren't being voiced, which may well include from the floor as needed. 
  • under "relations with fellow members," one is to "[r]ealize that they should not make statements or promises of how they will vote on matters that will come before the Committee." This can be a tough one to hear and a tough one to do. What it does, however, is respects the role deliberation during a meeting is to have in the public process of making decisions. New members are told--and thoughtful long-serving members know well--that there will come a time or more when you come in thinking you'll vote one way, but the discussion or information presented shifts your perspective. That's how public deliberation is supposed to work!
    That is going to mean, however, somewhat less opining on matters on upcoming agenda items, as my discussion of them and deciding on them as a member should be happening during the public meeting. 
I'm also just going to note: at this point, this blog has almost twelve years of my thoughts on education, so...lots is out there, in any case. 
I am acutely aware of the space that I fill.
I'm going to do my best. 

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