by Mel Griffith
Recently the Bradley County School Board held a called meeting which should not have been called and should not have been allowed to spin out of control when it was called. This embarrassment to the board came about as a result of a series of errors by a number of people. It was called to consider the question of whether the Director of Schools should serve until the end of June as he desired or be suspended now. Once the issue was settled in favor of him staying until the end of June the business for which the meeting was called was over and the meeting should have been adjourned with everyone's dignity more or less intact. When business was completed and the chairman asked if any board members had anything to say, I took the request as a formality in the adjournment process. To my surprise, several board members had quite a lot to say, most of which shouldn't have been said. Before our very eyes the board morphed from dignified professionals into a pack of bickering juveniles.
In case the board members haven't figured out what went wrong, I will list the errors that should have been avoided and offer some suggestions on how such misfortunes can be avoided in the future.
Error #1 The Director should have waited until he retired before criticizing board members. Employees ought to show respect for the employer, even if they don't feel it.
Error #2 Before calling for the suspension of the Director, the board member who did it should have consulted with a few interested parties to see if there was any support for his idea. He couldn't legally talk to other board members, but there are plenty of other people.
Error #3 The chairman should not have refused a request to put the proposal on the agenda for the next meeting. The chairman is supposed to be a facilitator, not a dictator.
Error #4 The called meeting should not have been called. When the chairman had just determined that the idea was not important enough to put on the agenda for a regular meeting, why on earth did he call a special meeting to consider it alone?
Error #5 The meeting should have been adjourned as soon as a vote was taken on the Director. A called meeting can only consider matters listed in the call.
Error #6 All board members should have known that Roberts Rules of Order, which they were supposed to be following, prohibits personal attacks on other members, such as asking them to resign.
Error #7 The chairman should have promptly called members out of order when they started personal attacks on other members, both because personal attacks are prohibited, and because they did not relate to the purpose of the call.
As someone who has more board experience than most of the present members, I offer the following suggestions to avoid similar disasters in the future.
#1 Get yourself a copy of Roberts Rules of Order and study it so you will know how to behave yourself at public meetings.
#2 Don't say, let alone write, anything you don't want to see published in the paper.
Most of it won't be and any of it might be. All elected officials should follow this rule carefully, as a local judge recently learned. Much of the controversy at the board meeting related to ancient gossip, instead of the issue the meeting was called for.
#3 Adopt a policy that any board member can put anything on the agenda that he or she wants to. If members can't even get issues they care about discussed, there will naturally be division and bad feelings. Everyone deserves an up or down vote on their proposals.
In fairness it should be noted that some board members conducted themselves well. Terry McGuire gave a positive and thoughtful plea for the board to cooperate and focus on the issues and challenges that they face. Tom Casada was an island of dignity in the sea of misbehavior, speaking only briefly, calmly, and positively.