The House Education Committee introduced a new bill Tuesday that would change the rules under which a school board can enter a closed-door executive session.
First-year Rep. Bill Goesling, a Republican former member of the Moscow school board, and the Idaho School Boards Association are pushing the new bill.
Current law allows boards to enter into executive session after a motion is authorized by a two-thirds vote of the board, which often include five members.
If passed into law Goesling’s bill would make it so that school board that have vacant positions — and thus don’t have the numbers to secure a two-thirds supermajority based on a five-member board — still could vote to enter into an executive session if a majority of the seated members approve the motion.
“If the governing board of a public school district, charter district or public charter school has vacancies such that fewer than two-thirds of board members have been seated, then the board may enter into executive session on a simple roll call majority vote,” the bill reads.
Simply put, a five-member board needs four votes to approve an executive session today but could not approve an executive session if only three board seats are filled. If the bill passes and a board only has three positions filled, two votes would be necessary to enter into executive session.
Goesling said the change is necessary to allow boards to conduct business when it experiences turnover, cannot fill vacancies or faces unexpected resignations.
“This legislation permits a board to discuss time-sensitive and emergent circumstances with a simple roll call majority,” Goesling said.
Idaho School Boards Association Executive Director Karen Echeverria said the bill would not apply to school boards where one or more members are simply absent from a given meeting. Instead, it would apply when boards have unfilled vacancies.
The bill would not affect school boards operating at full strength, which would still be requires to pass a two-thirds majority vote.
Additionally, the narrow list of reasons a board can enter a closed door executive session would not change under the bill. Those reasons include:
- To evaluate the potential hire of a public officer, employee or staff member.
- To consider the evaluation, dismissal or disciplining of a student, staff member or officer.
- To acquire an interest in real property not owned by a public agency.
- To communicate with legal counsel regarding pending litigation.
- To consider labor contract matters.
Idaho school board members voted to push for the bill during the ISBA’s annual convention in November. The St. Maries School Board originally pushed for the change arguing that boards “may have a quorum present, however cannot enter into executive session because of the lack of enough members present to qualify a two-thirds vote to do so.”
St Maries’ proposal passed the trustees convention 8,137 to 347 under ISBA’s weighted voting system.
House Education’s vote to introduce the bill clears the way for it to return for a full hearing.
STEM Action Center update
The STEM Action Center is launching a new “externship program” at the end of this week designed to give K-12 teachers a taste of real-world careers in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.
Executive Director Angela Hemingway told House Education the STEM Action Center will open its application system by Friday, thanks to a partnership with the Workforce Development Council.
Under the externship program, 10 K-12 teachers will fulfill a five-week work experience program this summer.
Hemingway, a former teacher, said the program would benefit educators who teach STEM disciplines but have not had careers outside of education.
“It allows teachers to enter the workforce for five weeks and gain a better understanding of the need of the workforce (in order to share that experience and help prepare students for STEM careers),” Hemingway said.
The externship is modeled after a program in Iowa and will allow educators to obtain about 200 hours or career industry experience. Thanks to a Workforce Development grant, teachers who participate in the program will receive $5,000.
The application window will open by 5 p.m. Friday and more information will be available on the STEM Action Center’s website or by calling (208) 332-1729.
Hemingway also announced dates for upcoming science, engineering and robotics fairs. Highlights include:
- March 1, Northern Idaho Science and Engineering Fair, Coeur d’Alene Resort Conference Center.
- March 8, Eastern Idaho Science and Engineering Fair, Idaho State University, Pocatello.
- March 15 Western Idaho Science and Engineering Fair, Boise State University.
- March 28-30, FIRST Robotics Competition, Ford Idaho Center, Nampa.