Delegates seek changes on virtual meetings

On Board Online • November 8, 2021

By Paul Heiser
Senior Research Analyst

School boards need greater flexibility in holding meetings remotely, according to resolutions that passed at NYSSBA's Annual Business Meeting.

The meeting was held remotely on Oct. 18 . The number of school boards represented by delegates was 312 - the largest turnout in at least five years.

One passed resolution directs NYSSBA to support updates to the state's Open Meetings Law to allow board members to attend meetings remotely via video conferencing without disclosing their location and without permitting public in-person access to an individual trustee's remote location.

Delegate Lisa Anderson of the Hendrick Hudson school board, which sponsored the resolution, said it would promote the safety of board members without compromising the public's ability to observe the meeting. The measure passed by a margin of 93% to 7%. Another resolution with similar goals passed with 66% in favor.

Four resolutions were approved with no debate and by large margins. They called for NYSSBA to:

  1. Advocate for state funding to help school districts make and implement decisions in the best interest of the global environment. This was the first time NYSSBA has taken a position targeting climate change. (The term "climate change" does not appear in the resolution but is in the first line of the rationale submitted by its sponsor, the Voorheesville school board.)
  2. Support legislation at the state and federal levels to end local responsibility to pay for school meals by having state or federal agencies assume full fiscal responsibility for student nutrition. Sponsored by the Washingtonville school board, this resolution also breaks new ground in NYSSBA advocacy.
  3. Work with the state comptroller to ensure audits are based on statutory guidelines or provisions of state law, rather than subjective standards and preferences.
  4. Support state legislation that would evaluate the efficacy of, and require use of, accurate recent data in future implementation of foundation aid.

Overall, 17 resolutions were adopted and six were not adopted. Seven proposed resolutions - five of which were introduced late - were not moved to be considered because they failed to receive a motion and a second. Each of the late resolutions failed to garner the necessary two-thirds support to be considered, as per the meeting's bylaws.

Sixteen of the adopted resolutions had been recommended by the Resolutions Committee, while the other adopted resolution had not received the Resolutions Committee's imprimatur.

The Resolutions Committee is a group of board members charged with reviewing all resolutions and bylaw amendments submitted by member boards of education and the NYSSBA Board of Directors. The committee determines which resolutions and bylaw amendments to recommend for consideration by voting delegates. The committee was comprised of one representative appointed by each of the 13 NYSSBA area directors, plus a representative of the Conference of Big 5 School Districts and the Caucus of Black School Board Members.

The one resolution that passed that was not recommended by the Resolutions Committee directed NYSSBA to seek legislative and/or policy changes to streamline the teacher certification process for teachers from out of state and those with previous teaching experience. This measure passed by a 70% to 30% margin.

The one resolution that was recommended by the Resolutions Committee that did not pass was in support of state legislation to establish guidelines to help school districts identify and capture data on the effects of climate change when planning and implementing school budgets. A number of delegates described this as an unfunded mandate. The measure failed, with 55% opposed.

Four of the approved resolutions - all adopted overwhelmingly - were previously adopted ones that were scheduled to sunset this year. One was a call for the state Legislature and governor to reform education funding in accordance with the tenets of adequacy, equity, flexibility, predictability and clarity. A second supported state proposals affecting public education that: provide access to programs that prepare students to be college- and career-ready; achieve equity and adequacy in funding; promote efficiency and cost-effectiveness; advance high expectations for all students; embrace innovative approaches and assessments; and foster community engagement and regional cooperation. The other two directed NYSSBA to support proposals that would allow students with disabilities to be tested at their developmental age and increase state and federal reimbursements for school meals.

There was extensive debate on a resolution that would have directed NYSSBA to oppose allowing school district voters to use no-excuse absentee ballots upon request for school board elections and budget votes. Proponents cited the need to ensure election integrity while opponents said they supported no-excuse absentee ballots to increase voter participation. The measure was defeated, with 69% opposed.

Defeated was a proposed amendment to NYSSBA's bylaws that would have required NYSSBA's annual business meeting be held in person each year, rather than at a time and place designated by the board of directors as association bylaws currently require. The amendment, which was not recommended by NYSSBA's Resolutions Committee, fell far short of the two-third majority required to change association bylaws. It garnered the support of only 32% of delegates.

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