In case you missed it, Temecula Valley Unified School District’s board recently called for a review in the district’s hiring practices after it was discovered that the Superintendent’s daughter was hired to a position—previously nonexistent—which would pay up to $4,165 a month and required only a high school diploma. While those details might be cause for suspicion, the real problem occurred when it was discovered that the daughter has a criminal record.

While it’s certainly not my intention to further shame a local district during what is undoubtedly a sensitive time, I do think there is an opportunity to glean two important board governance lessons from this unfortunate development:

 

  • First, we should all be aware of the fact that public education is no less prone to instances of nepotism than the private sector. It is natural—and indeed should be anticipated—for Superintendents to want to bring in a team of leaders with whom they have a prior relationship. We see this all the time in the sporting world, where a recently-hired coach will bring in assistants he/she has previously worked with. However, when those people are offered jobs solely because of the existing relationship, beat out more qualified candidates during the interview process, receive compensation above what is being paid to similar positions, or have entirely new positions created just for them, major ethical questions arise.
  • Board members should give the same level of deliberation to items on the consent agenda as to those items that are actionable. In meetings that follow Robert’s Rules of Order, the consent agenda allows the board to vote on a group of items en bloc (all together in one motion). This can speed up meetings by allowing for the approval of business that is traditionally noncontroversial, such as approving the minutes, approving reports of purchases, accepting donations, and approving personnel orders. However, just because these items are usually noncontroversial, does not mean that they are always noncontroversial. When a board member feels that an item on the consent agenda may be of particular interest to the community, it is their responsibility to request that the item be removed from the consent agenda and pulled for discussion. This request does not need a second and is not discussed, nor is any vote taken to remove the item from the consent agenda.

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