For those interested in Killeen schools, navigating how the Killeen Independent School District board of trustees functions can be mind-boggling.
• The KISD board regular monthly meetings are opened at 4:30 p.m., but the board immediately goes into closed session.
• Topics are discussed in closed session, which are never mentioned during the open portion of meetings.
• KISD board policy is not readily available on the KISD website, but must be found using a search engine.
• Information regarding agenda items for board workshops is not available at all, except when projected on a screen in the board room during those sessions.
• Information regarding agenda items for the board’s regular meetings is available only on the KISD website, and can run over 100 pages.
• Those wishing to watch the KISD board regular meetings can view them only on Spectrum Cable, or may need to reconfigure their computer/mobile device to enable KISD-TV broadcasts.
• KISD board workshops aren’t broadcast, though a considerable amount of board business is discussed at those sessions and votes may be taken.
These and other issues can be confusing for members of the public.
Members of the KISD board did not respond to emails and other inquiries regarding these procedures.
REGULAR BOARD MEETINGS
On the second Tuesday of each month, the KISD board holds its regular monthly meeting.
The official notice for those meetings customarily reads like this example: “A Regular meeting of the Board of Trustees of Killeen Independent School District will be held Tuesday, September 12, 2017, beginning at 4:30 PM in the Board Room of the Administration Building at 200 North W.S. Young Drive, Killeen, Texas. The Board will convene and open the meeting at 4:30 p.m.”
The notice continues, “Immediately thereafter, the Board will conduct a closed meeting, in accordance with the Texas Open Meetings Act.”
What this means is that the members assemble in the board room at the KISD administration offices, and open the meeting at 4:30 p.m. Then, the doors to the board room are closed to the public for executive discussions.
Those closed discussion topics can include attorney consultation regarding lawsuits, prospective gifts, real property, personnel matters, student discipline, security and emergency management.
During the period from 4:30 to 6 p.m. the board room doors may abruptly open, so the public — if anyone is waiting outside — can enter. The board will briefly reconvene in open session, take a vote, then close the doors again to continue their executive session.
“All votes on closed-session items did indeed occur during open session,” said Terry Abbott, KISD chief communications officer. “No votes were taken during closed session.”
While operating within the rules of the Texas Open Meetings Act, the KISD board takes votes before the public arrives, without mentioning those actions during the open portion of the meeting, which begins at 6 p.m.
The KISD board agenda can be a confusing document. The brief descriptions of each item make the need for additional documentation mandatory.
Certain agenda topics are separated into two items, especially those discussed in closed session. Item 23 from the Sept. 12, 2017 agenda, for example, reads, “Consultation with the District’s Attorney on Pending Litigation as Authorized by Sections 551.071 and 551.129 of the Texas Government Code.”
That is the closed-session discussion.
Item 24 from that same agenda reads, “Consider Possible Action Regarding the Resolution of C.A. No. 6:17-CV-217, Pending in Federal District Court.”
That item is where the board takes its vote on item 23 in open session.
An “agenda packet” — background information — is posted with the agenda on the KISD website 72 hours before the board’s regular meeting, which is normally Friday afternoon.
“The average person is not paying attention to the district after five on a Friday,” said Stephanie Moody, who has two children attending KISD schools. She has attended many board meetings over the past three years.
The packet contains background information on many agenda items for the meeting, except those discussed in closed session. Those without access to computers cannot read the information.
For those who may wish to review the information, printing can run over 100 sheets of paper.
At the meeting, pages from the agenda packet are projected on a screen in the board room above the members’ desk as each item is presented, but no hard copies are available at the meetings for distribution.
The KISD board meeting notices include the proviso, “Items do not have to be taken in the order shown on this meeting notice.” That allows the KISD board to jump around on the agenda.
At the Aug. 8, board meeting, for instance, item 22 from the agenda, regarding a teacher contract termination and resignation, was discussed in closed session beginning at 4:30 p.m. The vote on this matter, listed as item 23, was taken at 4:55.
Immediately after the vote, the board recessed until reconvening at 6 p.m. At that time, the members started with agenda item 1.
As the board worked through the agenda in order, no mention was made of either item 22 or 23 after item 21 was completed.
Instead, the meeting was adjourned.
At the Sept. 12, board meeting, items 25 and 27 from the agenda were discussed in closed session immediately following the opening of the meeting at 4:30 p.m. Item 25 had the board consulting with its attorney regarding a teacher contract termination and suspension without pay.
Item 27 dealt with a Level III Public Grievance.
The board voted on item 27 at 5:11 p.m. An announcement regarding no need for action on item 25 was made at 5:26 p.m.
The board then recessed, reconvening at 6 p.m. to begin the regular open session with agenda item 1.
The board went into another closed session during the Sept. 12 meeting at 9:32 p.m. to discuss two lawsuits listed as items 21 and 23 on the agenda. That closed session lasted over an hour.
Reconvening in open session at 10:51 p.m., board members voted on items 22 and 24 — the agenda items related to items 21 and 23 — but made no mention of their earlier decisions on items 25, 26 and 27. Instead, they immediately adjourned the meeting.
KISD board meetings on the second Tuesday regularly include an agenda item that allows the public to speak about topics not on the agenda for that night.
Those wishing to speak must fill out a form before 6 p.m., when the open meeting starts.
Each speaker is limited to three minutes, with a timer projected on the screen behind the board members’ desk. The board president, Corbett Lawler, reads the rules regarding the public forum before the first person approaching the podium.
Complaints can range from issues with cafeteria lines to ongoing bullying at KISD schools. Others report on attendance at events. Speakers are not allowed to discuss the actions of specific individuals.
The board members cannot respond in detail to any of the speakers. An item could be added to a future meeting agenda, if the situation warrants.
The best that can be done by the board is a promise to “follow up” on the speaker’s concerns.
According to Moody, the board often does not honor that promise.
“There’s no formal process for following up with speakers, which in my opinion is misleading to everyone who comes out to speak,” she said.
The KISD board meetings are broadcast live on Spectrum Cable, but those with satellite TV or without cable cannot watch them. An option has been to view them on the KISD-TV website, but the video viewer consistently displays the message, “Error loading player.”
The error may be caused by various factors, according to Brad Retz, KISD-TV media technician. He said the player used by KISD-TV supports “just about any tablet and computer devices.”
Retz suggested an individual may need to use a different web browser, like Safari or Google Chrome. Another possibility is that internet settings may need to be reconfigured in order for the player to function.
“Streaming video is always tricky,” Retz said.
Videos of regular meetings are eventually archived on the KISD-TV website.
When the KISD board room is filled by the public, audio feeds and a video screen in the administration building lobby are supposed to provide the overflow crowd with the ability to hear and view the proceedings.
Moody said this equipment is not used during such meetings, leaving those outside the board room in the dark.
KISD BOARD POLICY
The question has been raised by concerned residents as to whether this method of running the KISD board meetings is in accord with board policy.
The KISD board policy documents are available on the internet, but only by using a search engine.
Under the heading “Local Governance,” KISD board policy reads, “The order of business for regular Board meetings shall be as set out in the agenda accompanying the notice of the meeting. At the meeting, the order in which posted agenda items are taken may be changed by consensus of Board members.”
Another document, found on the KISD website, supports following the agenda in order at board meetings.
The document is titled, “Have You Had Your Norms Today?”
It is a PowerPoint presentation created during the time Ronald Rainosek was board president, making it at least 5 years old.
The document is still used by KISD, being passed out to those in attendance at a recent committee meeting, according to Moody.
In that document, one slide asks, “What rules of order shall the Board use?”
The first bullet point reads, “Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised.”
Robert’s Rules of Order supports following the agenda in order.
How the agenda is followed is not the only issue with KISD board meetings causing confusion and concern.
The KISD board holds a second meeting each month, usually on the fourth Tuesday. This is called a workshop.
The workshop is not televised, though a substantial amount of the board’s monthly business is discussed during these meetings.
Similar to the board’s regular meetings, supplemental material is used in the presentations. This information, however, is not available with the workshop agenda posted on the KISD website.
Any member of the public who might attend does not have access to the information, other than seeing it projected on the board room screen, since no hard copies are available.
Votes are taken at the workshop meetings, though the concept of a workshop does not convey that votes are part of the proceedings.
At the Aug. 22, workshop, for example, minutes provided by KISD show votes were taken to approve the 2017-2018 budget. Other votes approved an increase to the budget for internal auditing, and a 1.02 percent increase in the tax rate to $1.11.
“These topics go unnoticed because they are not publicized nor are they televised as regular meetings are,” Moody said.
Voting on other agenda items discussed at the workshop meetings is consolidated into a “consent agenda” item for the next regular meeting.
In other words, a single vote is taken at the regular meeting for about six different items discussed at the workshop.
If residents do not attend the workshop meeting, they would not know the details about those items, since no discussion takes place about them before the vote at the regular meeting.
The minutes of board meetings and workshops are posted on the KISD website. They are general summaries of the business that took place. However, the minutes of a given meeting are not put online until after the board approves them at a subsequent board meeting.
Rick Beaule, president of the Killeen Educators Association, uses his video camera to record KISD board workshops when he is in attendance, as a service to KEA members. “We work to record board workshops so that our members who can’t attend can stay current on district and board actions.”
Beaule keeps the videos on file.
In his capacity as president of KEA, Beaule maintains open communications with board members and KISD administrators at all levels.
Beaule sees the importance of that kind of communication being established between the KISD board, the district and the whole community.
“All boards of trustees are required to follow the law,” Beaule said. “But without that open communication, the public will create its own perception of what the district and the board are doing. So it’s really vital to always keep talking.”
Moody wishes the board would take Beaule’s advice. Right now, she — and others — see the KISD board meetings as problematic.
Moody summarized her views: “The entire process seems to be intended to be ‘user unfriendly.’”
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