Sep. 28—CHEYENNE — As Laramie County School District 1 trustees prepare to update board policies on Monday, Superintendent Margaret Crespo said it reflects priorities in the strategic plan.
There are changes in Chapters 1 and 2 that have been under review since Aug. 16, and will be voted on at the meeting. Amendments include clarifying reporting procedures for discrimination, removing redundant language and not requiring the board to strictly adhere to Robert's Rules of Order.
"Some practices become outdated, some statutes are updated, and you want to make sure that you're reviewing them on a regular basis," Crespo told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on Tuesday. "The cycle should be no more than about five years, and that's kind of what we're working on right now, is looking back at all those policies to make sure that we're aligned."
She said as LCSD1 developed its strategic plan, officials recognized that they needed to make sure their policies were updated. Crespo said the benefit of having an internal staff attorney is the district can make changes as needed. Amy Paul, the general legal counsel, was not available to comment.
"It's imperative that LCSD1 policies are up-to-date, comply with state and federal statute and reflect best practices," LCSD1 Chairwoman Rose Ann Million Rinne wrote in an email.
Although the 45-day review period will remain for board policy amendments due to state statute, the district's Policy Advisory Committee could soon be a thing of the past. It would be dissolved if the board approves of the proposed changes, and it would no longer determine whether to recommend the adoption of proposals to trustees.
The subpanel is made up of the superintendent, faculty, administrators, teachers and parents, who are expected to research each proposal. Those stakeholders would no longer be specified to receive feedback, which Crespo said is to enlarge the scope of public comments.
"We're expanding the opportunity for people to have a feedback loop, which did not exist before," she said. "And certainly to be more transparent, because we have to provide feedback."
She said the change does outline requirements such as a response to each public comment, an update to the board, adjustments to be made and for general counsel to align the language. Proposals for amendments, deletions or additions could be made by a member of the board, the superintendent, parents, students or district employees.
"A careful and orderly process will be used in examining the policy proposals prior to any action," the amendment to Chapter 2 states. "The board will take action after hearing the recommendations of the superintendent and the viewpoints of persons and groups affected."
Some stakeholders, however, are concerned the language is too vague. Former LCSD1 trustee and teacher Nate Breen said he served on policy committees for close to 20 years, and he believes the process worked.
He told the WTE there were many opportunities for people to have input, with important guardrails.
"We avoided running stuff through for convenience," he said. "Policymaking can be painful. It can be laborious, but I think it needs to be intentional, and I'm afraid that people are losing the whole idea of deliberation and policies."
Under the amendments laid out, the chairman could call an emergency meeting to take temporary action without notice, clarifying actions could be taken in the absence of existing policy, and trustees would be elected by residence areas.
Election changes are being made to align with the new system for trustee seats implemented in the general election this year. There are now seats specified for Areas 1, 2 and 3, as well as at large. Four of the seven board seats are up for election this fall.
Loosening Robert's Rules was criticized by former trustee Breen, as well. It is a parliamentary procedure used by many boards to provide structure, and it requires trainings. He said it is important when working on policy or in meetings to have an orderly program, and chaos can occur without it.
Breen said the change would allow demagogues to take over. He cited instances at board meetings this past year where there should have been points of order made because board members were bringing up subjects that were not a part of the debate or agenda.
"You've got to have some order and a sense of direction," he said. "Getting rid of Robert's Rules of Order — I don't care what their legal adviser said, this is a disaster waiting to get worse."
Changes were floated to the first chapter of board policy. Language was added for complaints of discrimination, and redundant sections on professional conduct and standards was removed.
"It's to not be redundant, so that as the language changes for those areas of protections, we don't have to bring the policy back," Crespo said. "Most of that comes from federal law and state (law), so we actually don't have to write it all over again."
This is not the final review of board policy for the year. A legal notice will go out after next week to review Chapter 7, specifically dealing with "special instruction programs for students with disabilities," Crespo said.
Jasmine Hall is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle's state government reporter. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 307-633-3167. Follow her on Twitter @jasminerhphotos and on Instagram @jhrose25.