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New Jersey School Boards Association has no truck with a new DOE proposal that would let school superintendents unilaterally call for school board meetings. Currently, meetings are held either by preapproved schedules, by board presidents, or through consensus of the board.
Here’s Mike Vrancik, director of NJSBA’s Governmental Relations Department:
[I]n a move that has no legal basis and defies common sense, the Department of Education has proposed placing an additional burden on the operation of local school boards by permitting school employees to call meetings of their local boards of education. The proposed change to NJAC 6A:32-3.1 permitting the superintendent to unilaterally call a board of education into session whenever ‘requested by the chief school administrator’ is an illogical designation of power that erodes a community’s authority over their elected and appointed boards of education.
In practice, school superintendents who want to hold a previously unscheduled meeting simply consult with the board president, who then calls a meeting. At least that’s how it works on functional boards. Perhaps the proposed regulation is meant to address dysfunctional boards at odds with superintendents (whom they hire, evaluate, renew, or fire).
According to NJSBA, the proposed change is a result of findings from Gov. Christie’s Education Transformation Task Force. The Task Force apparently spoke to superintendents who said that “urgent matters” were left unattended because of their inability to unilaterally call for meetings. Vrancik remarks,
The problem with the rationale is that if the matter is truly urgent, it would be an emergency, in which case a board would still need an affirmative vote of three quarters of the board members present to hold the meeting under the state Open Public Meetings Act. This proposed state regulation permitting the chief school administrator to unilaterally call the board of education into session runs against the explicit legislative intent of our state’s Sunshine Law. A state regulation cannot override state law.