Education Editorial: Richmond School Board

By: Bill Bosher - email

It seems that the Richmond City School Board is again offering high drama.

This time it was open debate on what the members could talk about. Apparently this educational "Areopagus" was focused on whether or not members of the school board could discuss topics that were not on the agenda.

Two board members invoked the "point of personal privilege". First a parliamentary "point of personal privilege" has nothing to do with one's opinion on specific issues. It is a vehicle used to protect one's rights…you have been mischaracterized or there is an issue of comfort or safety.

Secondly, the Board's agenda must be advertised and deliberated publicly with a quorum of its members. School boards may only discuss three things with the door closed: litigation, personnel and land acquisition.  The school budget or changing attendance zones are not appropriate topics for an executive session. "Sunshine laws" such as the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) were created to ensure that public officials would deliberate in the public eye.

Lastly, school boards clearly need to create agenda and adhere to them, but this procedural necessity was never intended to inhibit discussion. In the same manner, school board members must restrict the desire to subordinate the corporate agenda to their own.

As for Richmond, if the school board ever passes a rule that limits comments to items on the agenda, school board members should individually sign for the public comment period, step down from the dais, and let her rip as any other citizen.

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