Although the McAllen Independent School District Board of Trustees will likely make some adjustments to board policy this semester, the main proposal that started the board’s discussion on policy is almost certainly headed to the dustbin.
Late last month the board’s president, Debbie Crane Aliseda, proposed changing the number of trustees required to place an item on trustees’ agendas from one to two.
She described it as an efficiency measure, though Trustee Sam Saldivar, Jr., the board’s vice president, opposed it.
Crane Aliseda failed to find any allies at a second discussion on the topic last week and trustees voted against it, but not before Crane Aliseda and Saldivar reiterated their points and engaged in a bit of bickering over the proposal.
“If [an agenda request’s] not coming from administration and it’s not coming from a consensus of the board, it’s not fair to have staff who are paid by the hour or on salary working on things that only one person is asking them for,” Crane Aliseda said. “If one person is asking them for information, they’re working over the weekend and doing things. That’s not fair, that’s not fair for staff, that’s not fair for administration, that’s not fair for the rest of trustees as well.”
Saldivar — echoed by other trustees who voted against the proposal — described keeping that policy the way it stands as a way to preserve minority opinions on the board. Besides, he argued, abstaining from using the two-trustee policy many other districts use hasn’t caused any problems.
“Those districts that have that, we’re better than that. We don’t need to have two people to put something on the agenda,” Saldivar said.
Verbal jabs and heated conversation among trustees aren’t uncommon on the McAllen board, though the new slate elected in May made it through a turbulent summer and some difficult decisions on friendly terms.
The policy proposal sparked probably the first public little spat when Crane Aliseda called the question on discussion while Saldivar was trying to make another point.
Not a particularly common feature of meetings, calling the question cuts off conversation on an item and prompts a vote, often in the face of argument that doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.
“Point of order madam president, you don’t have the right to stop a person from speaking,” Saldivar told Crane Aliseda.
“You’ve already spoken and —,” Crane Aliseda said.
“You don’t have a right to stop a person from speaking,” Saldivar repeated, cutting her off. “I’m sorry, you don’t. You don’t have that authority.”
Crane Aliseda did, ultimately, let Saldivar make his last point.
The board also voted in favor of two other policy changes that didn’t prove so contentious.
One would require agenda items be submitted nine days before a meeting in an effort to give administration time to prepare for discussion, while the other would loosen the timeline for discussion from “within the next two regular board meetings” to “at an appropriate time in the near future.”
Those changes will likely become policy after a second reading.