“We’re going to be an open book, and will make sure that transparency is there,” Lincoln County Board of Education member Bob Silver told the Times-News on Tuesday.
“The culture of this board has changed and everybody wants the public to know that we are all making an effort to make sure they understand.”
As board committees met on Tuesday, members demonstrated unanimous positions on ethics and transparency. For newcomers, such as Mark Mullen who attended his first Budget and Finance Committee meeting on Monday, the discussion on the morals of the committee was something he felt he needed to hear, as he starts the new year as not only a committee member, but also as School Board Vice-Chair.
Prior to entering into a closed session meeting to discuss a personnel issue, stand-in attorney to the board and its committees, Dean Shatley, decided to review the group’s Code of Ethics policy, highlighting areas he felt may not be executed properly among the local education officials.
Decisions have to be made and discussed openly, Shatley told the group as he spoke on the importance of not conducting action during closed sessions, and being as clear with the public as (legally) possible about what happens behind closed doors.
“I think what needs to be done by the board, and existing board members, is to question themselves to be sure, are we following the (ethics) code to the best of our ability?” Silver said. “We need to make sure we’re following the code to the letter.”
Recently elected Policy Committee Chair Cathy Davis spoke with the Times-News about the need for transparency and honesty on the new board, something she felt may have been an issue in the past.
School Board Chair Candy Burgin agreed with the fellow committee members that all employees should and will be held accountable for ethical violations; various policies and procedures are going to be looked at in the new year, with revisions to ensure gray areas are eliminated.
The most important issues at hand are the students, teachers,staff and accountability to taxpayers, Burgin said.
Shatley said he also sees some existing ethics policies that are not being properly followed in several areas, but focused especially on the need for mutual respect among board members.
In order to set good examples for the students and to have healthy, successful conversations, members’ opinions must be both respected and listened to, regardless of the speaker’s peers’ personal views on the situation, the policy reads.
“If you don’t do what that policy (number four) says, then you will have issues that won’t allow you to make good decisions for the kids,” Shatley said.
Returning member Tony Jenkins noted that this particular portion of the document wasn’t something that he feels was handled properly during his previous time with the board, and has since spoken about the need for clarity and openness among the current group, keeping students’ best interests in mind.
Everyone was in agreement that this board will be different from its predecessors’ history of not fully letting the public in on certain topics, the members reviewed the policy as a refresher of what their jobs entail, aside from looking over budgets and cost saving initiatives. New members will be required to attend two full days of ethics training in Raleigh, as part of the requirements for accepting their seat.
With ideas of active community involvement, clear-cut understandings of acceptable behavior, and fully executing the principles the board was founded on, the new committees and the board head into the new year.
Other items discussed during Monday’s session: