A proposal to require a supermajority of Douglas County School Board members to approve or amend district policies failed to gain board approval.
Board member David Ray proposed two policy changes aimed at gaining voter support for the district’s bond and mill levy override, but they weren’t supported by other members during discussion at the Sept. 27 meeting.
One of Ray’s suggestions was to require a two-thirds majority vote to change district policy or adopt new policy. The other was to add language to policy about school choice, noting that the district doesn’t support vouchers for private schools.
Ray said his intent with the proposed changes was to address the community’s lack of trust in the board, which has contributed to opposition to the bond and mill levy override funding questions on the ballot this November.
“When I start talking to people about what actions can this board take that will help them overcome their fear and perceptions and in turn become supportive of what we’re trying to do, the response I hear is to see the board taking action to find common ground in decision making,” he said. “So that’s what motivated me then to go back through our policy to see what we could do to show meaningful action, not just words.”
Ray noted the change wouldn’t apply to a majority of board actions and that a two-thirds majority is already required for certain actions, such as going into executive session.
In response, board members Becky Myers, Mike Peterson, Christy Williams and Kaylee Winegar said they thought the supermajority proposal would contribute to distrust, citing public commenters who spoke against the suggestion.
“As we can see, there are a lot of people in our community who disagree with it, and it actually caused more division than trust,” Winegar said. “To me, what I think will help build trust is when we were being respectful among each other, even when we disagreed, and coming together on the MLO and bond.”
Several commenters at the meeting who were opposed to the idea called it a “power grab.”
Both Williams and Peterson also said the requirement of a supermajority is out of line with how other governing bodies, such as the state or federal legislature, operate, so they didn’t see the need for it.
“While I respect what the intentions were, I don’t think this has ever been the practice of this board, of future boards, of prior boards, and nor do I think that it’s necessary,” Williams said.
Board member Elizabeth Hanson also didn’t support the change, saying she was concerned about the supermajority requirement leading to more governing through resolutions, which would not need the extra vote to pass.
“Is this incentivizing the use of resolution governance?” Hanson said. “That concern is so significant with me that I don’t think I can get to a point where I support the change in the voting structure for policies.”
Only board member Susan Meek voiced support for the supermajority proposal, which she said could lead to more collaboration and compromise. However, Meek did not vote for the change.
“I looked at this policy change as being one that would actually move things away from power and more toward relationships and it would actually take more power away from my perspective in that I would have to influence multiple people to join my view," Meek said.
Ray moved to adopt the language change, but the motion died without a second.
Ray’s second proposal to add language about the district financially supporting only public school students received slightly more support, but still not enough to pass. Ray said this change was intended to allay concerns about the district supporting vouchers in the future.
It failed on a vote of 4-3, with Myers, Peterson, Williams and Winegar dissenting.
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