A somewhat perplexing conversation occurred at yesterday’s August 17 SDEA Board meeting regarding the approval of the August 10 SDEA Board Retreat minutes. This year, once minutes are approved, they will be placed on the SDEA website. The August 10 Board Retreat minutes were the first minutes typed by newly elected SDEA Secretary Michelle Sanchez, who received a lot of criticism from the other Board members regarding her minutes. Board member Melody Welch stated concern over the fact that the minutes were “too detailed.” This triggered an immediate red flag for me.
Aren’t details what we want? Aren’t we as members entitled to be privy to all the details of our Board’s discussions during open session? Who decides which details are included and which aren’t? To me, shortening the minutes and removing details amounts to censorship. Intentionally not giving us all the pieces of the puzzle is not how a democratic union operates. Welch further stated that the minutes may cause “alarm” about our healthcare, a topic which apparently received a fair amount of discussion at the August 10 Board Retreat. I think we should be “alarmed” at SDEA’s attempts to hide details. We should be alarmed and made AWARE of anything concerning our healthcare because it is next on the chopping block. If SDEA has no plan to protect our contract or our jobs if Prop 30 fails (which they currently don’t), and no plan to prevent what just happened to us from recurring again this coming year, we should be very worried indeed.
Board member Dennis Schamp commented that these minutes were too much information for our members to read. I’ll let you discern the implications of that statement on our intelligence. Another Board member stated that the minutes revealed the “evolution” of their thought process and that should not be made public. I disagree. We should know what they are thinking because they represent us and such thoughts directly impact us. Can you imagine the School Board members having the same conversation? Our union would go ballistic! Or at least, that would have been the case a year ago.
In the end, the board did not approve the minutes. This was NOT because there were errors in the minutes, but because the Board majority want them to be rewritten so that some of the details can be omitted. They did not approve the meeting minutes because they were too detailed and accurate. I encourage other SDEA members to join me at the next SDEA Board meeting to be present for their motions to strike details that they deem “alarming” to members from the Board minutes.
But it actually gets worse. I left the meeting with a copy of the Board meeting minutes, which I thought I was allowed to do because in the past anyone who attends an SDEA Board meeting has been allowed to have and keep a copy of the agenda and minutes. As a matter of fact, I don’t think that there is anything in the SDEA Bylaws suggesting that shouldn’t be the case. However, an SDEA staffer (not Board member) sent me an “urgent” email requesting that I return the minutes to the SDEA office “ASAP” because the minutes were still “unofficial.” Do they think that more cloak and dagger is a good thing at this point? Demanding that I return the minutes adds insult to injury on their part and is another nail in the coffin of their transparency and credibility.
I am left wondering what the Board is trying to hide and why they are so afraid of their membership being aware of all the details. It almost seems as if they want an uninformed or misinformed membership.
As we enter another year of tight budgets and possible cuts, a misinformed membership is dangerous. Honestly, the way the Board is conducting itself should raise concerns with all members. For us, this means attending Board meetings, being extra vigilant by finding out all the facts and asking probing questions, and continuing to pressure the union Board for transparency.