The Fallbrook Union High School District Board of Trustees on Monday, Jan. 4 held a special meeting via teleconference for a work-study session to review and learn about governance protocols and standards.
Because of the special meeting designation, no public comments were taken.
Led by former interim superintendent Dr. Lou Obermeyer the work-study session covered ground-level topics such as the board's commitments and obligations, public service, effective governance, gatherings, and communications, roles for board leadership, and much more.
"I like to do governance board workshops because I think it's a really nice time when you add board members to a board," Dr. Obermeyer said in opening the meeting. "We've got two new board members, welcome both Eddie (Jones) and Oscar (Caralampio), you're joining a wonderful school district and leaders in the district.
"I like to work with you as you start learning what your roles are and your responsibilities. It's a good review for board members that have been on the board and it's also a good learning time for all of us as we talk through what the superintendent does and what individual board members do and then what you do as a group.
"You will hear me refer to you as the governance team because together you lead your school district. When you do work together well and you listen to each other, and you hear what each other person has to say, and you understand what your roles and responsibilities are then you really can become a high-performing, high-functioning team and that's our whole purpose in this."
They also had a discussion about integrity and new trustee and board vice president Eddie Jones gave his impression of what that means.
"To operate openly with trust and integrity ... operating with trust is really important, we need to trust each other that we don't have hidden agendas," he said. "When somebody asks me questions about something or vice versa, give answers, I would trust if that's the whole truth and isn't something that I need to try to figure out. Integrity is basically to be making decisions based on our important stakeholders, students, mainly the school district."
The group also discussed the board members' responsibility toward recognizing and respecting the difference of perspective and style on the board and among staff, students, parents, and the community.
It spurred a discussion about Zoom meetings and how they have changed participation in the school board's meetings.
"People are going to be the first in line when they want to complain," board president Diane Summers said. "It's just kind of interesting and I think it's easier for them to get to do it this way because they're just sitting in their home, they don't have to walk to the school and all that and take that kind of time. It's been very interesting, and even a lot of the kids have been more verbal than we've ever seen before."
Dr. Obermeyer explained that it is important for board members to check their demeanor during public comments and remember to listen and be respectful.
"I think that one of the things that is difficult, Dr. Obermeyer, for all of us, is that you want to respond during those public verbal comments," Superintendent Ilsa Garza-Gonzalez said. "Sometimes you want to clarify or explain but realizing that we shouldn't because then it becomes engaging and we kind of go off track. It really just is listening and I think that after a while it is important to watch the demeanor because a lot of times you'll also be attacked (portrayed as you) don't you care because you're not responding and you're not saying anything to what I'm saying
"It's a difficult time and not just right now but anytime that something difficult happens in the school you want to be empathetic, you want to be sympathetic and public verbal comment is not necessarily the place to do that."
"You're absolutely right on that," Dr. Obermeyer said.
She recommended the board add a sentence at the beginning of public comment explaining that the board cannot respond to public comments as they are not included in the agenda, but that they can request that the superintendent or staff follow up the comments with a phone call to address the commentator's issues.
"What I find very difficult in those times are when they are saying something that's blatantly untrue," Trustee Lita Tabish added. "They're putting that out there as if it were fact and you know we can't respond."
"And you're right because they can say what they want and you just have to listen because otherwise, you're right you start engaging and if you were to try to give them the right information or the truthful information then you started that conversation that you know you can't have," Dr. Obermeyer said.
The board is scheduled to meet Monday, Jan. 11 in a regular board meeting via teleconference that is open to the public starting at 5 p.m.
The board is scheduled to consider approving the Governance Handbook, approval of the second reading of New Board Policies and Administrative Regulation, approval of the second reading of the revisions to Board Policies, Administrative Regulations, and appoint one board member to represent FUHSD in the Trustee Review Committee meeting.
They will also consider approving replacing lighting in the Bob Burton Performing Arts Center, approve the selection of Balfour Beatty Construction for Fallbrook High School modernization projects, approve the second readings of several new courses at the school, as well as the new International Baccalaureate, and revisions to Board Policy and Administrative Regulation as they refer to graduation requirements.
The complete board agenda can be found at https://www.fuhsd.net/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=1595662&type=d&pREC_ID=1723157.
Jeff Pack can be reached by email at [email protected].