Kelly Marlow, Petruzielo Clash Over Cherokee School Board Policy
School board member Kelly Marlow faced off with Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo on her proposed changes to policy governing when to list financial impact of agenda items.
A proposal to modify a policy regarding school board meeting agendas led to testy exchanges between School Board Member Kelly Marlow and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo during the school board's meeting on Thursday.
At the heart of the disagreement was whether the school district should list the financial impact on an agenda request form to be considered by the school board.
Marlow, who is in her first term, proposed changing School Board Policy BCBD to read, "When an agenda request form is included, the financial impact section must include a dollar amount. In cases where there is no cost to the District, the dollar amount should be listed as 0. In all other cases, a dollar amount must be listed on the form. It shall be the policy of the Board that the project or action shall not exceed that amount without prior approval of the Board."
Petruzielo proposed an alternative to Marlow's change, which read, "When an agenda item requests a specific expenditure of board of education funds, that cost will be noted; otherwise, including circumstances in which associated costs are not borne by the board of education, financial impact will be noted as N/A."
The superintendent's recommendation goes on to say that the board's expenditures will be governed by board policy DC, which is the district's annual operating budget.
While the board approved Petruzielo's recommendation with a 4-3 vote, with Marlow, Michael Geist and Rob Usher dissenting, it followed a nearly 40 minute discussion primarily Marlow, Petruzielo, Geist and Board Chair Janet Read on the policy.
Marlow said her reasoning for proposing the change stems from the previous board meeting in which she questioned whether the school district's dues to the Georgia School Boards Association were approved as part of the current fiscal year 2013.
She said she felt the district should include on the agenda item the cost of the district maintaining its membership. Barbara Jacoby, public information officer for the district, reminded Marlow that the GBSA agenda item last month calling for the board to continue its membership wasn't an expenditure of funds and that it was the district continuing its membership with the organization.
Petruzielo said the dues were included as part of the current fiscal year budget and it would be a "waste of time" for the staff to indicate the fiscal impact of an agenda item if no impact will occur and if the item has already been set aside for funding in the district's budget.
"We have never had a problem with this in the 15 years I’ve been superintendent," he added.
He also said there are instances in which the school board enters into partnership agreements in which the financial impact would fall upon the shoulders of other entities in those said agreements.
Marlow shot back at the superintendent, and asked if it would be "appropriate" to list the expenditures before the board approves them so we know "what exactly those funds were."
Board Chair Janet Read jumped in and told Marlow she thought that would be "redundant" as the board has already approved the expenditures in the operating budget.
Taking a different route, the superintendent chimed in and said the district has held public hearings each year before the school board approve its fiscal year budget and over the last 15 years, no more than one person has attended those meetings.
“So the assumption that there’s people out there who just can't wait to consume this information and figure out what exactly we pay for dues to GSBA is a bad assumption," he said.
While the public may have many questions about some aspects of the district's budget, Petruzielo noted Marlow is "possibly overestimating" how much the public would like to know about individual line items in the budget, adding the district's four-inch thick complete budget available at its offices in downtown Canton is so filled with details that it would "put most people in a coma."
Marlow didn't let Petruzielo's comment slide by without acknowledgement.
“With all due respect Mr. Superintendent, every dollar matters in this day and age," she said, adding not every taxpayer has access to the district's online executive summary of the fiscal year budget.
"If it’s such a simple request and such an easy piece of information to find, I’m sure Mr. Howell and the staff would be more than happy to include it on an agenda item," she said, referring to Assistant Superintendent of Financial Management Candler Howell.
Board member Michael Geist added that while it "wouldn't be practical" to list every expenditure on agenda items, he was inclined to support Marlow's request.
"I don’t know if what Mrs. Marlow is asking is terribly unreasonable," he said, adding a compromise would be to only list the cost of items that would have a financial impact.
However, Petruzielo said Marlow's proposal amounts to the district fixing something that's not broken. He noted he could not live with the language in Marlow's proposal.
Marlow then switched the subject slightly and asked Read who makes school board policies. Read noted the school board makes policies based upon the superintendent's recommendation.
Marlow asked when the deadline was for changes to the school board's agenda can be made and Read told her it was one week in advance of when it's posted.
Marlow then pointed out that Petruzielo had just submitted his recommendations during the meeting and requested to table the superintendent's request.
Petruzielo reminded Marlow that he didn't recommend her policy, to which Marlow noted the superintendent was out of order and asked if he'd like to make a motion for the board to vote on the item.
"I don’t make motions and I don’t vote," he responded.
School Board Attorney Tom Roach then jumped in and told Marlow her motion was out of order because Roberts Rules of Order does not allow elected officials to make a motion to table items if a motion to approve or deny had not been previously made.
Growing frustrated, Marlow asked if it was the board's responsibility to compile the agenda, to which Read replied that per school board policy, it was the superintendent's agenda.
"I’m not even sure what my role is anymore," Marlow said in frustration.
The debate on the agenda item was preceded by a work session in which the board was briefed on matters that could impact employees and whether or not the district would have to implement more furlough days in the next school year.
"I can’t imagine that we are spending really this much time on something so inconsequential, particularly with the kinds of issues that we just talked about in the work session that are so consequential to the future of this system," Petruzielo stated, referring to the what the board discussed during the work session.