MISD trustees to revisit SOPs

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror

The Midlothian Independent School District board of trustees once again revisited a subject that has vexed the board for a long period of time — standard operating procedures — during last Monday night’s regular monthly board meeting.

After a discussion, the board took no action on an agenda item to consider suspending the board SOPs, pending legal review to ensure procedures are in alignment and compliance with board policies. The board instead will schedule a workshop in the coming days to go through each conflicting item in the SOPs.

Board members Heather Prather and Bobby Soto served on a committee to review the matter.

“I know the board SOPs have been something we’ve been looking at even since prior to my time coming on the board,” Soto said. “I know we’ve looked at those over the past several years and certainly those are important.

“In the same light, so is our board policy, and in reviewing our board policy and wanting to ensure that our SOPs line up with our board policy under the direction of our new counsel, it is the committee’s recommendation that we have our new counsel review those and make sure they are in line with our board policy.”

Trustee Andrea Walton asked why the matter was being reconsidered only two months after the board had unanimously approved an updated SOP. Prather explained that the legal review, conducted by a newly-retained counsel, found some procedures that were not in alignment with board policy and recommended that the board rework those items in a future workshop. Several examples of conflicts between the SOPs and policy were pointed out.

Walton said the SOPs are an important part of the board’s accountability and recommended against suspending them, saying the board should instead keep them in place while scheduling a workshop as soon as possible to resolve all conflicts. Prather countered that the district’s policies provide for accountability, and policies trump the SOPs.

Later in the meeting, board president Matt Sanders brought up a need to make changes to public comment parameters and procedures. Sanders said a high number of anonymous or fictitiously-signed written comments have been submitted that often revealed confidential and sometimes defamatory information. As a result, Sanders recommended requiring commenters to identify themselves.

All board members participated in the meeting. Trustee Gary Vineyard participated via phone.

Other items

• The board approved the consent agenda, which included acceptance of previous minutes, the quarterly investment report, budget amendments, SHAC committee AIM programming recommendations and committee members for 2020-2021, the budget calendar for 2021-2022, and an update to Library Board membership.

• The district’s auditor report for the 2019-2020 school year was accepted.  The district received extremely high marks on all of its finances, trustees were told. The district has $126 million in unspent bond proceeds that will be used on future building projects.

• District and campus improvement plans were approved by the board. The board discussed changes during a workshop on Oct. 5.

• Trustees agreed to seek bids for technology services and equipment, specifically for internet access. MISD chief technology officer Leslie Garakani told the board the district is nearing the end of a two-year agreement for internet service. Garakani also said it was time to update some of the district’s technology, in particular with wireless connectivity at some elementary schools.

• Processes and parameters for setting school boundaries were reviewed by the board. Community input will remain a large part of the process, much as it did for the recent middle school boundary changes, MISD assistant superintendent of engagement and strategic innovation Karen Fitzgerald said. Trustees will take final action at their regular November meeting.

• MISD director of secondary learning Nikki Nix presented the career and technical education (CTE) departmental report. Nix said the new MILE campus is close to the original goal of 250 students, half attending morning classes and half in the afternoon. A total of 910 certifications were issued in the 2019-2020 school year.