The Ketchikan School Board Wednesday night opted to delay policy revisions regarding travel expenses and student personal electronic device use, pending review by the borough attorney.
Public hearings were scheduled to approve two policy revisions in second reading. When the first was reintroduced, regarding travel expenses, lengthy discussion followed. Board President Matt Eisenhower moved that the item be postponed until Borough Attorney Glenn Brown could review it.
“Other board members might feel differently than I do, but I want to change our process to make sure that we’re being thorough on all of our reviews. To protect all of us. To protect us. To protect you. And then also our borough attorney may be able to speak in to some local nuance that weren’t not even aware of or know enough to ask the question.”
Board Member Diane Gubatayo expressed frustration at the suggestion of postponement. She says it passed in first reading and had undergone review by the policy committee.
“I’m a little frustrated at this point that we’re just, I don’t know. We were just talking about trying to move things forward and this one, to me, seems to have less legal questions by far than some of the other policies we’ve reviewed.”
Board Member Rachel Breithaupt says she wants to see a consistent process.
“It doesn’t sound to me that members prefer a lawyer to see specifically this policy, but that members prefer to set a standard in which a lawyer reviews a policy after the policy committee and then it comes to us.”
The board voted 4-2 to postpone the item for two weeks, with Gubatayao and Mattson voting against. Board member Tom Heutte was absent.
The second hearing related to student personal electronic device and cell phone use. Interim Superintendent Beth Lougee says staff recommends the board postpone approving the policy.
“Based on Mr. Brown and I still have more discussion and follow through with information, especially the areas right there in the middle in the red. The no expectations of confidentiality. He got back to me earlier this week and asked that we postpone it based on he is still looking and going through (it) and has some advice for us.”
The board unanimously voted to postpone the item to allow the borough attorney to review it. Gubatayao says the district’s policy committee discussed the issue, and has suggested amendments. She says the suggested changes will be submitted to the borough attorney for review as well.
The board also met in executive session to discuss job expectations and performance goals with Interim Superintendent Lougee. No action was taken.
The board then considered a motion to contract with the Association of Alaska School Boards to provide guidance on filling the district superintendent position. Lougee’s contract ends in spring, and the board would like to fill that position as soon as her contract ends. During public comment, two teachers felt a contract with AASB was unnecessary and recommended the board hire Lougee for the permanent position.
Lon Garrison, Director of Membership Services for the AASB, was present. He explained contracting options. Garrison says the board has wide latitude for filling the vacancy. He says there is nothing in state law or policy that defines a process, but there should be transparency.
“At the same time, I think you’ve got to be cautious not to think about something and do something for process sake, when you might have the answer right in front of you, and there’s options to do that.”
Garrison added that the applicant pool for superintendents is small, and given Alaska’s budget situation, the state is less enticing.
A motion was made to postpone considering a contract with AASB until the next meeting. That motion failed, with Gubatayao voting in favor of postponement. The board then voted on the original motion to contract with AASB. That motion failed unanimously. It was noted that the board could chose to contract with AASB in the future if desired.
Board Member Bridget Mattson made a motion for a one-year contract with Lougee as permanent superintendent be brought back at the next meeting .
“I’ve had more feedback on this issue in the last two weeks than I have had on the Edwards’ (sexual assault scandal), on the change in superintendent, on any other issue, and it has been resounding in the desire that we make this not an interim position, but a permanent one.”
Garrison says the board could choose to move forward, but because it was not an advertised action item recommended the board not pass it.
Gubatayao says she would like the board to do an evaluation of the interim superintendent and get more public input.
The board voted 5-1 against that motion, with Mattson voting in favor. The next school board meeting is September 11th.