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833 School Board member: No more free trips

What was expected to be a routine review of District 833 School Board policies revealed differences of opinion among members about their travel, e-mail use and the order in which they vote.

During a March 3 workshop to discuss updated policies, Board member Jim Gelbmann called for a policy banning board members from traveling to national conventions because of the cost. The issue arose as the school district is making spending cuts to balance its budget next year.

Gelbmann, who attended a National School Board Association convention in 1996, said after the recent workshop meeting that he got nothing out of the trip.

School Board member Laurie Johnson is attending the association's convention next month in San Francisco. She is paying her own airfare and hotel expenses. Board member Marsha Adou is also attending. She did not return a call seeking comment.

"If we think that shouldn't happen, we should talk to the board chair," School Board member Ron Kath said.

The School Board did not act on a policy change.

Other seemingly routine policies drew board members attention.

Kath wants board members to choose an elected official to administer the oath of office when they are sworn in after an election, as is the case with Washington County commissioners. (Kath administered the oath earlier this year to county Commissioner Autumn Lehrke.)

Superintendent Mark Porter said he would check with the Minnesota School Boards Association to see if there are unique laws about that only apply to school boards.

Board members were divided over a policy stating that the board chair has the authority to decide the order in which board members vote on issues.

Kath said the chair should tell board members ahead of time what the voting order will be.

Kath disagrees with a policy allowing one board member to remove an item from the consent agenda at the start of a regular meeting.

A move to remove an item doesn't need a second, said Board Chair Leslee Boyd. If one board member doesn't agree, the item should not be on the consent agenda. "Consent means that everyone agrees," she said.

Kath said a move to remove an item allows a board member a chance to make a "grandstand" speech.

Gelbmann took issue with the policy that requires board members to use the district administered e-mail address. He often uses his own e-mail address.

"I have two e-mails now and neither is confidential," he said, adding that will use the district address if board members insist.

District e-mails are easier to retrieve for legal purposes, Kath said.

Porter said it is a Minnesota School Boards Association and he will check its legality.