An advisory board member position on the Northwest Public Schools Board of Education may be unfilled, based on board discussion at its meeting Monday night.
During its monthly meeting, the board discussed policy No. 9110, concerning the bylaws of the school board. Much of the discussion centered on whether the board wishes to revise the policy to eliminate advisory board members. The discussion comes in light of former advisory board member Travis Hedman’s resignation on April 10.
No decision was made on the policy Monday night. Board President Dan Leiser said per another board policy, any changes to policy have to be in writing prior to a vote being made. The policy is expected to be reviewed again at the board’s July meeting.
Leiser began the discussion by giving a brief history of how the Northwest board came to have advisory board members. He said that the 1984 annexation agreement between Grand Island Public Schools and Northwest led to property owners in northwest Grand Island paying property taxes to GIPS, while also still paying on Northwest’s bonds and sending their kids to the latter district.
“The major reason was that the individuals who lived here in the Capital Heights area were current board members at Northwest, Engleman and Shoemaker, and had been part of this,” said Northwest Business Manager Sharon Placke. “Even though the students’ taxes were not going to go to Northwest, they still had their students going here and wanted representation.”
Board member Robin Schutt said she understands why the policy was initiated, but policies evolve and that the advisory board member positions are no longer needed.
“I don’t feel that by eliminating the advisory board member positions, that we are saying that we don’t value option students. I don’t think that that is a valid argument,” Schutt said. “Anybody, at any time, can come to a meeting and sit for however long they want. Everything is public record and anyone can talk for five minutes.”
She said she did not feel it necessary to fill Hedman’s vacant position at this time. She added current advisory board member Becky Rosenlund’s position could sunset at the conclusion of her term. Rosenlund began a four-year term in January.
Leiser and Zach Mader both said that there are six board members voted onto the Northwest board by district voters and they should be the only ones who sit on it. Neither supported filling Hedman’s vacant position.
Bret Mader said he was opposed to the policy when former advisory board member Scott Eriksen resigned and is still opposed to it.
“The downsides are having to fight this policy with our attorneys and people in the Legislature who do not think it is legitimate,” he said. “Another reason is I do not know any other school boards with high option enrollment in Nebraska who have advisory board member positions.”
Board member Mike Shafer said he had “the opposite opinion” of Leiser, Bret Mader and Zach Mader.
Shafer said that with Northwest having approximately 70 percent option enrollment, it is necessary for option families to have a voice on the board.
“Even though it is a non-binding vote, it is another point of view,” he said. “I don’t see the negatives of it. I don’t know we would shut out another opinion from parents whose kids are attending Northwest.”
Board member Karl Quandt agreed with Shafer, saying that after being on the board for more than 10 years, he has come to realize the benefits of having advisory board members serve on the school board.
“Some of the best members of this board have been advisory board members,” Quandt said. “That brings out ideas and perspectives that we don’t always get being district patrons. I think it is also true that with that high percentage of option students, it does make them feel like they are able to bring forward if they have representation sitting on the board.”
Rosenlund said she understands the concerns some Northwest board members have about advisory board members, but she feels she is able to be a voice for option families.
“As an option parent, it means a lot to me that there are opportunities for option parents to contribute in what feels like a significant way,” she said.
“Even though it is a non-binding vote, I feel like my voice can count and help contribute to the conversation. I know, through many interactions with option parents, that that means a lot to them, too.”