September 13, 2022 Board Meeting — My Thoughts

September 13, 2022 Board Meeting — My Thoughts

We held a regular board meeting on September 13th. You can view the meeting here (on the Richland One website) or here (on YouTube). As always, I encourage you to watch the entire meeting.

I will cover two issues today: board oversight of contracts and payroll issues.

Board Oversight of Administration Contracts

Before July 1, 2022, Richland One operated under a procurement code and accompanying internal operating procedures that required board approval of any contract over $50,000. While there were some problems and loopholes, this process provided a good amount of transparency. It meant that the board — and the public — could see proposed contracts and ask questions about them. I, for one, think we have had some healthy discussions about these contracts. Even if the board rarely, if ever, votes down a proposed contract, this openness is a good thing.

The administration was required to update the procurement code before July 1, 2022. It opted to use the model procurement code issued by the State Procurement Office. Based on what I know, this was probably the best route. When the administration brought the model code to the board in May and June, it indicated that it would create stricter internal operating procedures. I thought this was a good thing.

Then the administration proposed amending the policy governing the board’s procurement oversight. At one point, the administration proposed that the board only vote on contracts that total over $250,000. Then, just before the final reading of the policy at this board meeting, it removed this requirement so that the policy says to look to the procurement code and internal operating procedures. The problem is that the code doesn’t provide any board oversight based on the contract amount, and the administration has not submitted its official internal operating procedures.

Because I do not believe now is the appropriate time to reduce the board’s oversight of the administration, I voted against this new policy. And contrary to one board member’s suggestion, we did not have to do this. We are not out of compliance with the state. We have already adopted the code. Nothing prevents the administration from developing its internal procedures before we vote on a policy that essentially says — look to the internal procedures. Indeed, creating this policy before the administration has submitted internal procedures means that we have gone from being able to discuss and vote on all contracts over $50,000 to having no authority on almost any contract. To say that we’re headed in the wrong direction would be an understatement.

When there is a pending investigation involving the district, calls for the Inspector General to conduct an investigation, and we are struggling to pay our employees correctly and on time, I think the board needs to increase its oversight, not eliminate it.

I did indicate that I was open to increasing the contract dollar amount that would trigger a requirement that the board vote on it as long as the district provided the board — and public — with all contracts no matter the dollar amount at each board meeting. Indeed, I think the board voting on these contracts is less important than the transparency that comes with that vote. So, being able to see every contract, I believe, would accomplish a lot.


We had an interesting discussion about payroll issues. First, we voted to hire a new Director of Payroll. That position had been open since May of 2022. But there is also a payroll supervisor position that has been open for three years. Yes, three years. The job pays between $60,000 – $83,000 depending on experience. It is inconceivable to me that this job should be open for this long. We learned at the board meeting that this job had been filled by someone in an “acting” capacity while they also have another role in the administration. This is not okay, especially given our significant problems with payroll. I have several still-unanswered questions about this arrangement.

As is often the case after a board meeting, I heard from folks throughout the district about this issue. First, I heard from teachers and principals that payroll is not responsive to them. There is no excuse for that. As I pointed out during the meeting, we do not give teachers flexibility about whether they will be responsive to folks who reach out to them. Payroll — and HR, for that matter — should see their roles as supporting the principals running our schools. Second, these folks, especially principals, said that it is unfair to lay all the blame on payroll. According to them, HR is often not doing what it’s supposed to before payroll can issue payments to employees.

I was glad to see that other board members recognize that the issue of paying our employees on time and correctly is a problem. Rather than question why it took so long since this has been an issue for years, I think we should focus on what we will do about it. And, to be honest, it’s hard to tell. I believe we need an audit, but the superintendent does not seem willing to concede that point. Of course, as another board member pointed out, the board can make this happen whether the superintendent wants one or not. I will ask that this issue be placed on the next board meeting agenda to move this in the right direction.

So, as we consider what we can do to retain the teachers we have, I think one thing we need to do better is support our principals who are working hard for their teachers. And for goodness sake, we need to get out of their way. The employees we need to return next year are watching, and they expect us to fix this.