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School board reviews operating principles

The Sunnyside School Board used a retreat this past weekend to review its operating principles.

The principles are essentially ethics and etiquette that board members agree to abide by.

The board's current list of principles was adopted in 2008. On Saturday during the retreat the board looked at samples of ethic codes from the Pullman School District as well as from a national association of school boards.

Among the items members noted from the sample review included:

- a board member's responsibility is "not to run the schools, but...to see that they are well run;"

- that board members should "appoint the best personnel available;"

- to "be sensitive to how independent statements or actions of a board member may be perceived;"

- recognize that their "school board authority to act can be exercised only when participating in an official meeting of the board."

The board had some extended discussion on the last two items.

For example, the session was an opportunity for board members to clarify that three of them could ride in a vehicle together to a meeting without worrying about forming a quorum.

Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole said that if three of five board members shared a ride it would not constitute an ethical issue as long as they did not talk about issues coming up for action at a regular board meeting.

Board members were reminded that with their status they should remember their actions, attitudes words and even dress come under closer scrutiny.

Board Chair Miguel Puente noted the board could do some things to adhere better to Robert's Rules of Order, such as making sure a motion is made and seconded before discussing an issue under consideration.

He said a reminder is needed especially after Cole makes a presentation on the issue.

The temptation, Puente said, is to follow Cole's discussion with board discussion, forgetting about the board's need for a motion.

While a helpful refresher, the board in the end felt the ethics samples they reviewed are already well covered by its operating principles already in existence.

Other action during the retreat included the school board's performance review of Cole. That review was held in executive session, with follow-up information to be provided at a future regular board meeting.

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