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Dublin school board to consider changes to communications policy after texting scandal

Move aims to prevent repeat of controversy revealed by public records release

Members of the Dublin Unified School District Board of Trustees are set to discuss revisions to the board's policy on electronic communications, following controversy over conversations revealed by public records during the adoption of new trustee-area maps earlier this year.

The debate around revisions to the relevant policy are set to kick off at the board's next regular meeting this Tuesday, with staff expecting a second reading and vote at the subsequent Aug. 23 meeting.

"As recently discussed by the Board, staff has prepared a revision to include language addressing the practice of texting during board meetings," Superintendent Chris Funk said in a summary for the upcoming board meeting. "This revision, along with additional changes needed to bring the bylaw in alignment with current CSBA recommendations, are noted on the attached draft for a first reading."

The item is on the agenda for Tuesday at the request of Trustee Megan Rouse at a special board meeting on July 12. The meeting was aimed at addressing the fallout of conversations between a handful of residents who appeared to be directing Board President Dan Cherrier, and trustees William Kuo and Gabi Blackman, in their selection of a new trustee-area map that pushed Rouse and Kristin Pelham into the same district.

The board's debate on July 12 centered on a report from Harold Freiman, an attorney at a Walnut Creek firm contracted with the district, that found that no Brown Act violations had occurred based on evidence in the publicly released conversations.

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"We each serve the entire school district, all of our students and all of our staff. And to that end we can put policies and practices in place to guide that, to be clear about what we're supposed to do," Rouse said on July 12. "And I will say I thought we were doing these things. I thought these were our policies and practices, and I have read them even more carefully now, and they are not written down. But I thought we were doing these things. But we're not. So we have an opportunity to find agreement on them, write them down and follow them."

The board policy on trustees' electronic communications was last updated in 2019. The draft revision set for discussion Tuesday includes additional language that specifically addresses issues raised by the released text conversations.

In particular, the draft revision includes an addition that "(board members) shall not text or email with community members while public comment is being heard at a board meeting."

The draft revision also includes guidelines for social media use and interactions. While social media use to interact with the public is allowed regarding district business, the draft revision emphasizes that board members are prohibited from interacting with one another regarding district business on social media platforms.

Under the draft revision, "(a) Board member is prohibited from responding directly to any communication from other Board members regarding matters that are within the subject matter jurisdiction of the Board or using digital icons (e.g., "likes" or emojis) to express reactions to communications made by other Board members."

Language on acceptable uses of electronic communications remains unchanged in the draft revision. These include dispersing agendas and agenda packets, superintendents reports, and reminders about times, dates, and locations of meetings.

The DUSD board's next regular meeting is scheduled for Tuesday (Aug. 9) at 5:30 p.m. The agenda is available here.

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Jeanita Lyman
Jeanita Lyman joined the Pleasanton Weekly in September 2020 and covers the Danville and San Ramon beat. She studied journalism at Skyline College and Mills College while covering the Peninsula for the San Mateo Daily Journal, after moving back to the area in 2013. Read more >>

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Dublin school board to consider changes to communications policy after texting scandal

Move aims to prevent repeat of controversy revealed by public records release

by / Danville San Ramon

Uploaded: Tue, Aug 9, 2022, 5:21 am

Members of the Dublin Unified School District Board of Trustees are set to discuss revisions to the board's policy on electronic communications, following controversy over conversations revealed by public records during the adoption of new trustee-area maps earlier this year.

The debate around revisions to the relevant policy are set to kick off at the board's next regular meeting this Tuesday, with staff expecting a second reading and vote at the subsequent Aug. 23 meeting.

"As recently discussed by the Board, staff has prepared a revision to include language addressing the practice of texting during board meetings," Superintendent Chris Funk said in a summary for the upcoming board meeting. "This revision, along with additional changes needed to bring the bylaw in alignment with current CSBA recommendations, are noted on the attached draft for a first reading."

The item is on the agenda for Tuesday at the request of Trustee Megan Rouse at a special board meeting on July 12. The meeting was aimed at addressing the fallout of conversations between a handful of residents who appeared to be directing Board President Dan Cherrier, and trustees William Kuo and Gabi Blackman, in their selection of a new trustee-area map that pushed Rouse and Kristin Pelham into the same district.

The board's debate on July 12 centered on a report from Harold Freiman, an attorney at a Walnut Creek firm contracted with the district, that found that no Brown Act violations had occurred based on evidence in the publicly released conversations.

"We each serve the entire school district, all of our students and all of our staff. And to that end we can put policies and practices in place to guide that, to be clear about what we're supposed to do," Rouse said on July 12. "And I will say I thought we were doing these things. I thought these were our policies and practices, and I have read them even more carefully now, and they are not written down. But I thought we were doing these things. But we're not. So we have an opportunity to find agreement on them, write them down and follow them."

The board policy on trustees' electronic communications was last updated in 2019. The draft revision set for discussion Tuesday includes additional language that specifically addresses issues raised by the released text conversations.

In particular, the draft revision includes an addition that "(board members) shall not text or email with community members while public comment is being heard at a board meeting."

The draft revision also includes guidelines for social media use and interactions. While social media use to interact with the public is allowed regarding district business, the draft revision emphasizes that board members are prohibited from interacting with one another regarding district business on social media platforms.

Under the draft revision, "(a) Board member is prohibited from responding directly to any communication from other Board members regarding matters that are within the subject matter jurisdiction of the Board or using digital icons (e.g., "likes" or emojis) to express reactions to communications made by other Board members."

Language on acceptable uses of electronic communications remains unchanged in the draft revision. These include dispersing agendas and agenda packets, superintendents reports, and reminders about times, dates, and locations of meetings.

The DUSD board's next regular meeting is scheduled for Tuesday (Aug. 9) at 5:30 p.m. The agenda is available here.

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