Suspending Belief

About that special meeting this week. No agenda was announced for it and there was a pretty big item on it – the approval of the health insurance plan with Health Partners.

Usually, all contracts are discussed at the business committee meeting prior to the School Board meeting especially contracts as big as the insurance plan. But there was no information provided at the special meeting. There were no cost estimates!

Gary Glass deduced that the increase in costs might be on the order of $1,200 per employee times 1500 employees. About all he knew was that the new expense would be an increase of 15%.That would be close to a $2 million premium increase. The Board suspended its rules to pass the contract on a six to zip vote with little discussion and no information! Gary was the zip.

He had previously voted against suspending the rules which allowed the Board to authorize a contract in violation of its policies.

In my time on the Board this was done a couple times a year so as not to delay things like construction projects that needed to get started as quickly as possible owing to our short construction season in Duluth. With the Red Plan there will be many such suspensions.

But, a suspension of the rules to authorize the District’s health insurance premium sight unseen? Impossible! Its too big. There was no excuse to pass it without a discussion or information. In the old days my old buddy, Tim Grover, would have raised hell about the suspension of the rules for the construction contracts even little piddly ones. He would have gone ballistic over a rush job on the health insurance that went forward without a timely measured discussion. Sadly, that Tim Grover is long gone.

In fact, by doing this the Board acted in violation its own policies:

16, 20088100 – Adequate Information to Precede Action

In order to expedite business, all pertinent information relative to the items on the agenda shall be made available to the School Board in written form for their study prior to the meeting. Administrators and other qualified persons may be required by the Superintendent or members of the School Board to present information at the meetings. It shall be the intent of the School Board to be fully informed before making decisions.

The School Board doesn’t run the schools. That’s why they have an Administration. But they are the community’s eyes and provide oversight or at least ought to. Here’s item 5 on their official list of duties.

5. Approving the budget, financial reports, audits, major expenditures, payment of obligations, and policies whereby the administration may formulate procedures, regulations and other guides for the orderly accomplishment of business.

You see the School Board’s duties as spelled out in the School District’s Policies only requires the board to approve financial things. There is no requirement that the Board understand what they are doing or bother about trivial details like whether a health insurance plan’s premiums jump by $2 million dollars.

For our School Board its not really about suspending the rules. Its more about suspending belief! This is the perfect School Board to oversee the Red Plan. Its a classic case of the blind leading the blind.

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