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District slow to publish decisions made at meetings

Original post made on Apr 29, 2016

The Palo Alto school district is an outlier when it comes to officially documenting and making public the minutes from meetings of the Board of Education.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, April 29, 2016, 12:00 AM

Comments (16)

Posted by Minutemen Democracy
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Apr 30, 2016 at 8:03 pm

This is a vital part of democracy.

Is the Board permitted to publish the Minutes of the previous meetings prior to the next Board meeting? Since they can't approve them until the next Board meeting, I thought they couldn't put them out before they could be approved, and this accounted for long delays during summer.

This still would not account for the six month delays during the school year.

Also frustrating is that Minutes of multiple meetings are presented at once, overwhelming any member of the public who tries to read them.

Information delayed is information denied. The longer it takes for the Minutes to be presented to the Board, the less likely any member of the public or Board member will remember what was said, and the less likely anyone can correct them. It hampers democracy.

The topic of how much detail to include was discussed at the last Board retreat. Let's be clear this is a very labor intensive job. Someone makes a choice how quickly and completely they want it done. The paid facilitator was arrogant about it, pushing an attitude of "you are the Board, the Minutes are only for you, you don't care what the public wants." But it is vitally important to this community, to know which Board members opposed measures and attacked people. For example, the fact that some Board members accused parents of perjury and evidence tampering in recorded meetings and then denied it is important to know.

Plus some Board members now cite as accomplishments improvements they opposed at Board of Education meetings. Board members can get away with these actions because they know it is difficult for any member of the public to review every recording and refer back to it. It is much easier to look up the Board minutes, but that is made nearly impossible by the delays. It delays the democratic process, reducing Board's ability to practice oversight of it's Administrators in a timely manner, and delays information getting to the public. It drastically diminishes the opportunity for the public to know what was said in Board discussions before a final vote is taken, especially if Minutes of previous discussions do not come out until after the final vote is taken.

This is a matter of how much payroll they want to put into it. It takes a lot of work hours, for anybody. There is no way around that.

It is under the control of the Administration and Superintendent, who has the majority of control over what the Minutes include and the slant they take. Sometimes it is frustrating that they don't include the public's input at meetings, or the Minutes seem slanted to show the Administration's desires. Other times they appear more balanced. It would be nice if the Minutes included when Board members cut off speakers, so the public can see the trends.

Minutes are not just for Board members. The facilitator was wrong. These are not their Board meeting belonging only to Board members, they belongs to the democratic process and ultimately the students Board members serve.

It would be better if the Minutes were compiled by an independent entity paid by the Board, and not the Superintendent and the people he or she pays, especially with an election coming.

Posted by Truth is easier
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2016 at 8:52 pm

I think the district administration, in realizing it could get away with flaunting all records laws and no one could make them, just simply doesn't care.

Word to the wise: the really great thing about being unfailingly honest and open is that it's really easier because you don't have to keep track of past lies, crimes, or misdemeanors. Still looking for truth and reconciliation from McGee.

Posted by It's the board, ...
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 1, 2016 at 12:47 pm

When you have board members like Dauber who made election pledges to make available to the public, via the Web, all of his communications with district staff and other board members that are not legally confidential and yet nearly two years later there is nothing, is it any wonder the district staff are following their "lead".

We have to get rid of these people. We need another election soooo bad!

Posted by Truth is easier
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2016 at 1:01 pm

We know you have a vendetta against Dauber. Since he's the only one who has been honest an open, and usually stands alone trying to get the district to be, I take issue with your vendetta. We would do well to bring in others more like Dauber. At least Dauber returns communications, unlike Emberling who has never responded to any email or phone call.

Posted by Not enough money?
a resident of another community
on May 1, 2016 at 2:35 pm

Maybe the district does not have enough money to pay someone to review the tapes and prepare the minutes. Does the Superintendent have any staff support at all? Not enough money. And if you'll buy that, I'll throw the Golden Gate in free.

Posted by them's tha facts
a resident of Barron Park
on May 1, 2016 at 4:10 pm


The truth is I've never had a response from Dauber to any of my emails to the board so I have no idea where you get the idea that he's good at communicating. Lot's of responses from Heidi and none from Dauber. Go figure!

Claiming someone that publishes the truth on broken election pledges has a vendetta is as indicative of the standards you hold your politicians as Dauber's ethics.

I for one don't want people representing me who break their promises, to put it politely.

Posted by Truth is easier
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2016 at 5:04 pm

I for one don't want people representing me who condine breaking the civil rights laws, the records laws, etc, and secrecy when it comes to protecting our children, which is why I regret ever voting for Heidi or passing out flyers for her. I see Dauber regularly stand up over hard issues others want to gloss over.

You have said your piece, over and over and over and over. We have heard you. You just make no case except that you don't like Dauber. I have signed up for board members lists and get way more info from Dauber's.

Did you realize there are records rules the district has to comply with by law? Student records, public records. Do you know they have never complied with almost any records request my family has made in five years? Ask the parents in the CAC about their problems getting records. No excuses now, districts are required to work out procedues for providing records according to the law, so especially in a district this well funded with a data officer and numerous technology people a communications officer, why can't we get records? We get a rigamarole, no records. Those failures to follow the law directly impact student education and wellbeing.

If the records you seek are public, why don't you ask for them and share them to spare us the harm you think is being caused? Then if you get them, let us know because I want to ask through you next time. Good luck with it.

Posted by fish or cut bait
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 1, 2016 at 6:23 pm

"I've never had a response from Dauber to any of my emails to the board "

That's been my experience. Ken is good at blogs but very poor at responding to emails.

Whether you think it's important for board members to keep their election promises is up to you. You get four years to regret your decision.

Posted by Truth is easier
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2016 at 7:38 pm

I hope you see this article as the gentle warning it is. It is still not too late to get on the right side of openness and restoring trust. But it's getting late. There are no real secrets, do not fall into your predecessor's trap of thinking that just because all hell hasn't broken, that everything will stay swept under the rug. Get rid of anyone telling you you have to cover anything up, or fail to follow the law diligently, and get help from outside to restore trust. Do it urgently. Your future here could go either way, but your odds drop the longer you side against openness. It's the law, even if bad things were done that legal thinks they got under the rug with no one looking (don't think people don't know about things, that was Skelly's mistake).

I say this as a community member on your side, I have nothing to do with the paper. I can tell they have been bending over backwards to treat you with kid gloves, but you don't seem to get it. This sounds to me like they are getting annoyed. Don't fix things and those will eventually come off. (Didn't they file a records lawsuit of some kind? This article was really really a gentle warning.)

Posted by Mil
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 2, 2016 at 11:35 am

Dauber couldn't do the job alone. He needs like minded people like himself to bring changes into the school district. There is an election around the corner, let's bring some new blood into that round which could propel our school district into the twenty first century. Change that our students can believe in.

Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 2, 2016 at 12:15 pm

This filters down to the low standards for teachers taking months to return essays.

Admin is performing at a much lower standard than other districts and is very disconnected from its families for some reason, they are a very posturing bunch that seems to only look at petty details about themselves when the kids and families around them are just doing the best they can with all the strange roadblocks and minutia that seems to be their only priority.

Example-- Not one admin. at music concerts - at PALY not one for years. Just watch, they will all be at the opening for the new fancy theater all smiles ready to act like they support the music at PALY. The kids all do notice and remember. All the kids were there in the old theater, gym or churches singing and playing their hearts out , not worried about how fancy the place was. Kid know. They all deserve educated admin. willing to place importance on their efforts and arts education. Music is the one thing that could help and possibly save kids and their kids and so on..... There is nothing like playing a beautiful piece of music with a group of friends. All hopes out their that the new building will be for the kids and their education rather than a place to throw uppity parties where admin. congratulates themselves in front of donors. I hope they take too long and do not get around to it.

Posted by LelandManorMom
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 3, 2016 at 6:58 pm

Perhaps a group of citizens or the WEEKLY should provide transcripts of the meetings and also summarize and track the info noted about, voting by issue for example.

Posted by Money Down The Drain
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 4, 2016 at 12:12 am

PAUSD seems like an overhyped school district with mediocre results in terms of what colleges the graduates attend. If more emphasis were made on an equal quality education for all, you would have more balanced students. The tardiness of the PAUSD school board's minutes are reflective of the overall ineffectiveness of the school district to achieve quality teaching results. Let's face it folks, what do your property taxes really pay for education wise in this district? Certainly not quality educational achievement results for the students. You are simply paying for the overpayment of administration and staff. And to top it off, your students still don't feel safe enough to take healthy risks, fail, fall down, succeed, get back up, and persevere! You should be teaching them what it tales to survive in life, and how to apply what is learned!

Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 4, 2016 at 8:00 am

An audio/video recording is always better than written minutes because nothing is missed - many communities have switched away from note taking because it is time consuming and never completely accurate. The modern world changes - sort of like newspapers using word processors instead of typewriters.

Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 4, 2016 at 8:23 am

pride comes before the fall, but they have fallen and still do not seem to know it and still think they are better than the other school districts. It is like they are in a hole telling everyone how great they are. maybe we really should just cover the hole and be happy not to have to hear all the details of nonproductive meetings that have somehow isolated themselves from their families they are serving.

Posted by Cougar alum
a resident of another community
on May 4, 2016 at 9:19 am

The meeting minutes from an official body are not a complete record or transcript of the meeting. They are just the record of the actions that the body took. Minutes often contain more information than that, but it is the actions that constitutes the key part.The minutes are relatively easy to record and must be filed for the actions to have legal effect.

In my jurisdiction, we are required to make the meeting minutes public within two weeks of the meeting. Obviously these are draft minutes because they are not approved by the body until the next monthly meeting. The reason for that requirement is that the meeting minutes should be available to the public before the subsequent meeting. Most people who join boards think that it is a requirement that the meetings must be kept secret until they have been approved. It turns out that is the opposite of the truth. I don't know whether the same timeline supply to the PAUSD school board, but it's worth checking into.

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