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Meeting minutes detail debated by U-46 board
By Seth Hancock
How much information should be included in meeting minutes of elected government boards?
That question was tackled by the Board of Education in School District U-46 when it voted on the minutes of two special board meetings, held May 17 and May 18, on Monday, June 18.
The minutes ultimately were approved unchanged by a 4-3 vote, but a possible compromise was reached going forward. Board members Phil Costello and Jeanette Ward both voted no and John Devereux, who was seated to the board that evening, abstained.
The minutes in question concerned two meetings in which the board interviewed candidates for a vacant seat, the seat now held by Devereux.
Ward pulled the items from the consent agenda to ask for a change to the minutes because “these minutes are a little bit incomplete.”
The minutes did not reflect the primary reason given by one candidate for seeking the open seat when asked at the May 18 meeting nor the substance of one public commenter at that meeting according to Ward. Candidates at both meetings also had an opportunity to ask questions of the current board, and those questions and the boards answers were not included in the minutes.
Board member Sue Kerr said “the minutes are meant to just grasp main points” and the candidates who were interviewed gave their reasoning for running in their applications, which are publicly available.
“The entire board meeting is available to the public on YouTube,” Kerr said. “I think if people want to get into the nitty-gritty of all of this they can see it. I guess I’m not 100 percent clear on what the value of seeing the questions that candidates asked of us.”
“The rest of the minutes are quite complete with their answers and the questions we asked, and so I would like it to at least include the questions that they asked,” Ward replied.
Costello concurred saying that it would be more transparent to include that in the minutes.
“I think it’s just a matter of transparency too,” Costello said. “I think that the whole conversation should be part of the record, not just bits and pieces.”
Donna Smith, the board’s president, agreed with Kerr that minutes should just be a summary, but Ward also agreed that it should be a summary but portions of the discussions weren’t summarized at all.
“The minutes are a summary,” Smith said. “They are not word for word or total complete conversations.”
“Certainly their answers to our questions were also summaries,” Ward said. “We could summarize the answers that we gave them when they asked questions of us. That would also be a summary.”
Ward later said: “I’m not suggesting we have to have a verbatim of the questions or our answer, but we should have a summary.”
Kerr said: “The answers they gave us are important because that reflects their reason for wanting to be on the board. I’m not sure how important it is necessarily for their questions of us to be out there.”
Ward said that “at least one of their questions we discussed quite extensively” and the “questions that a candidate asks, and any interviewer knows this, indicate something about the person that is being interviewed.”
Smith said she didn’t see any of the discussions surrounding questions from the candidates but “when I read it the first time, I thought it was a good summary.”
Board member Veronica Noland said she felt the minutes were “too detailed” and wanted to “reduce the size of the minutes.”
“I’m of the mind set that minutes are a general summary, they shouldn’t be verbatim…. I actually strongly disagree to adding all the questions and adding all this information.”
Costello said “the nature of the question itself and the nature of the response” should be included, and “it could just be the question was asked and answered…. A summary of the gist of the conversation, and that’s what the minutes should be.”
Kerr offered a suggestion for minutes going forward to add a link to the YouTube video and asked if that would be possible.
U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said: “I’d have to look into it. I think it would be pretty easy.”
Ward said “I love Ms. Kerr’s suggestion.”
“That is a great idea,” Ward said. “It’s actually quite easy. You just copy the URL and then paste it in.”
No board members offered an objection to that idea.
The conversation was referenced later in the meeting during a contentious discussion concerning the Student Code of Conduct.
Ward had said that board member Melissa Owens was “twisting” her words as Owens called Ward a bully, and Noland said: “The tape will show you said it. Didn’t we have this conversation?”
“Well then make sure you put it in the minutes then,” Ward said.