District 15 board revisits renewing SEE membership

St. Francis School Board Chairperson Marsha Van Denburgh stood her ground and left the Aug. 13 meeting over a question of procedure.

Marsha Van Denburgh
Marsha Van Denburgh

“Because I do not believe (the board is) following democratic process as our government was designed, I cannot in good conscience remain here for a resolution that has already been voted on,” Van Denburgh said as she gathered her things and quickly left the meeting.

Van Denburgh objected to revisiting a resolution to renew the district’s membership to Schools for Equity in Education (SEE), which failed to be renewed July 9 on a tie 3-3 vote.

Boardmember Janet Glover, who was absent at the July 9 meeting, had asked for the renewal to be placed on the Aug. 13 agenda.

Van Denburgh said “Roberts Rules” prohibits the resolution from reconsideration unless one of the prevailing board members asks for it to be revisited.

According to Human Resources Director David Lindberg, Van Denburgh was wrong in her interpretation of the “Roberts Rules” on motions.

“‘Roberts Rules’ has specific guidance on voting on the same item twice during the same meeting. An item can be voted on at any or all successive meetings unless there is a motion adopted to restrict the item from coming back for a specific amount of time,” Lindberg said.

After apologizing for missing the last meeting, Glove, who was vice chairperson and ran the meeting after Van Denburgh left, asked the board if it wanted to reconsider the renewal decision.

Only Boardmember Matt Rustad said no.

During the July 9 meeting, Van Denburgh, Rustad and Boardmember Suzanne Erkel, who was absent Aug. 13, voted against the renewal.

When asked why he voted against the renewal, Rustad said he did not like the $5,715 membership fee.

During the July 9 meeting, Rustad also questioned the lobbying group’s effectiveness as it has been unsuccessful at passing anything in the last eight to 10 years.

What SEE provides the district is invaluable, said School Boardmember Amy Kelly, who is a representative on the SEE Executive Board and was the board president during the 2010-2011 school year.

It educates legislators on the issues facing districts, like St. Francis, and the impact certain bills would have on the district, she said.

SEE has also provided training, legislative updates and levy research to the district, said Superintendent Ed Saxton.

“The group gives a district our size a voice at the Legislature” and provides district officials with better access to legislative members, he said.

It successfully pushed for technology funding during a time when the state was pushing for “Online in 09” but was not providing funding for districts to update their technology, Saxton said.

The district could not pay for its own representative at the capitol for $5,715, said Councilmember Harry Grams.

“That is a cheap price for representation,” he said.

During the Aug. 13 meeting, Glover said having that representation is very important.

As a district, it needs to continue working with other groups to protect the district’s interest, she said.

“This group does a good job,” Glover said.

The board voted 4-1 to renew the membership, with Rustad voting against.

On the Aug. 27 board agenda, Glover has requested the board consider removing Van Denburgh as chairperson.

Tammy Sakry is at [email protected]