Recently, the Madison School Board has authorized a plethora of special committees to consider issues confronting the district and to make recommendations to the board. These committees have the potential to improve future board decisions by bringing new ideas and new information to our attention.
Currently, there is a special committee to advise the board on advertising. There are the two large task forces that recently issued recommendations regarding overcrowding and under-utilization problems in the West, Memorial and East High attendance areas. There is committee of parents, teachers, and administrators to suggest changes in our health and safety policies regarding animals in our classrooms. There is a committee to review whether staff and other resources are allocated equitably to the schools, taking differences in student populations into consideration. There are budget forums intended to seek community input on next year’s budget.
In every case, the board publicly discussed its goals for the committee before launching it. In every case, the board voted on a specific charge to the committee and set procedures and a timeline for meetings. In every case the board has received regular reports on the progress of the committee.
The glaring exception to this process was the creation of a task force of teachers union and district representatives to consider whether changes in health insurance programs for the teachers might make it possible for the district to shift dollars from health insurance payments to wages. Millions of dollars in potential savings are at stake.
In this case, the board did not set goals for the committee. It did not take the time to issue any instructions to the district representatives. Nor has the board required any reporting from the district representatives regarding the scope of its discussions or the nature of savings that the district representatives are seeking.
On January 23, the board discussed the report from the committee on animals in classrooms for more than two hours. The board clarified its prior charge to the committee and directed further work. It’s inexplicable that the leadership of the same board shows no interest in directing the work of its representatives in their discussions of potential health insurance savings with the teachers union.