OUSD trustee urges board to adopt more meetings

By Tina Richards

Orange Unified Trustee Kathy Moffat believes once-a-month board meetings are not enough, and has consistently implored her colleagues to agree to additional meetings.

She again raised the issue at the Jan.  21 Orange  Unified  School District board meeting. “We need to spend more time in discussion with the community,” she said.  “We have a lot of work to do regarding budgets, bonds, security issues and LCAP (state-mandated Local Control and Accountability Plan).”

The board has meetings scheduled once a month, with four additional dates reserved in case additional meetings are needed.  Moffat recommended turning those placeholders into regular meetings, plus add dates in February, April, July and August.

Short notice

She noted that the board had four “hurry up” meetings last year, called at the last minute to conduct urgent board business.  Because of the late notice, the public was largely unaware the meetings were taking place.  In addition, Moffat herself was out of town during one of them, and unable to attend. She stressed that scheduled meetings provided more transparency to the public; and if not needed, could be cancelled. “People voted for us,” she said, “we need to be willing to do the work.”

Her fellow trustees were not enthusiastic. Tim Surridge pointed out that additional meetings put extra work on OUSD staff.  “It takes the focus away from students, and puts it more on the board,” he said.  “We do have placeholders.  I believe this calendar is enough.”  He suggested calling study sessions, if needed, rather  than  holding  full-fledged board meetings.

Moffat pointed out that staff’s preparation for board meetings is “not in service to the board, but to district business.  The focus is not on paying more attention to the board, but facilitating work the board is doing.”

Plans in place

Alexia Deligianni-Brydges reported that she liked knowing when to expect meetings.  She favored turning scheduled placeholders into actual meetings, but balked at slating more beyond that.  She agreed that study sessions were a good alternative.

John Ortega bemoaned the burden additional meetings would place on staff.  “They’re doing a lot of work already, and this just takes away from it,” he argued. “Staff needs a vacation in the summer.  People are going at 100 mph during the school year, they need the summer to download.  If you want to hold a study session, okay, but no board meetings just to have meetings.”

“We’ve been lean on meetings,” President Rick Ledesma added, “and the house is not falling apart.”  He suggested that, although monthly agendas are full, the board gets through them efficiently; holding additional meetings would not boost efficiency.

Moffat reiterated that this summer is not a normal summer.  “We have a bond to discuss, we have to make decisions, and make sure we’ve heard from the community.  This should be a summer where we put in the time.”

She then asked to have the subject placed on next month’s agenda for a formal discussion and vote. Although consensus is not needed for a board member to agendize an item, Ledesma volunteered that the board majority would not favor it.  “We should accept that the board has no appetite for this,” he said.

Deligianni-Brydges agreed the item should be agendized.  “We can add more placeholders and set a meeting for Aug. 4.”  The board’s decision on whether or not to float a bond must be made by Aug. 11.

Both Ortega and Surridge indicated they were comfortable with the way things are – no additional meetings.

After mentioning that summer is the time for campaigning (three trustee seats will be contested in November), Ledesma bowed to Moffat’s call.  “Go ahead and put it on the agenda,” he said. “But you can see how the board will vote.”

Mark Wayland, who resigned in December but changed his mind in January, was not at the meeting.