First, the committee reviewed a draft resolution stating proposed principles for SFUSD’s positions on legislation at the state and Federal level. As part of its responsibilities, the Rules, Policy and Legislation committee takes positions on behalf of the full board on pending legislation — with the stipulation that any Commissioner can request that an item be brought before the full board for a more thorough discussion and vote. This practice began over a decade ago as a time-saving mechanism for the full Board. In the course of any legislative term, the district considers hundreds of pieces of education-related legislation. Board members were tired of spending time in the full board meetings considering most of these routine items, so they delegated that function to the Rules Committee, which as a result got the word “Legislation” tacked on to its name. On occasion there is a bill that generates more debate and controversy, so those bills can and should go before the full board.
With the creation of legislative principles, we are trying to invite more input from the larger Board on how to decide which pieces of legislation to support, and which to oppose. In addition, we need to create a better way of informing the entire board and the public ahead of time when positions on bills that other Commissioners care about are coming up for discussion–and to put in writing, somewhere in the Board’s procedures, the obligation to give any Commissioner the opportunity to weigh in and advocate a particular position on a piece of pending legislation.
We then moved on to a discussion of the way the district informs the Board about contracts up for approval. There is an ongoing effort to improve the quality of the information given to the Board, and committee members, joined by Commissioner Fewer, gave a number of suggestions for improvements to the staff and legal counsel. These included:
- Focusing more on the department paying for the contract, rather than the site where the service described in the contract will be delivered;
- Instituting different processes and input forms for sites and central office;
- Giving more detail about the funding source proposed for a contract, and what the limitations/allowed uses are for that funding source;
- Increasing the threshold for Board approval of spending (currently any expenditure under $8,000 does not require Board approval), but also increasing the detail and frequency of reporting to the Board on administratively-approved spending;
- Improving the descriptions of proposed services and eliminating “boilerplate” communications.
The committee also discussed the process for appointing a new representative to the Elections Commission. Our current appointee resigned unexpectedly; since in 2008 we conducted an extensive interview process the commitee discussed the legality and process of appointing one of the runners-up. This discussion and a suggested course of action will be brought back to a future meeting of the full Board.
Next, we discussed proposed by-laws for the joint City College-SFUSD committee, a body that was formed to improve transitions for SFUSD students, and promote shared resources, data and planning between both bodies. Committee members suggested a few changes, and the proposal will be brought to the next meeting of the joint committee to discuss ratification and adoption by each board.
As a companion effort, committee members discussed proposed amendments to the by-laws of the City-School District Select Committee, with the aim of refocusing the committee rules in a way that improves communication and working relationships between the two bodies, and bringing them in line with the proposed City College-SFUSD joint commitee rules. District legal counsel will take the proposed changes to the City Attorney’s office for comment and discussion.