Oklahoma City School District board members have formed exploratory committees in an effort to improve overall efficiency, a move that could result in fewer public meetings.
The committees will focus on academics, operations, finance, government relations and nutrition, and are expected to begin meeting at the end of the month, Oklahoma City School Board Chairwoman Lynne Hardin said Thursday.
“I think we’re looking at how we can effectively understand the operations, the government relations and the academics,” Hardin said. “Rather than everybody trying to get into everything, we’ll just assign some committees.”
Each committee will include one or more board members, a district staffer and possibly one or more community members with related experience. Committee meetings are informal and won’t include a board quorum.
“I think it’s important for board members to have a clear understanding of how the district is funded and how a nearly half-a-billion-dollar-a-year budget is allocated,” said member Bob Hammack, a business owner who will head the finance committee. “Obviously, a substantial part of that budget is committed to teacher salaries, benefits and other capital expenses.”
Interim district Superintendent Dave Lopez said having committees will help build relationships between board members and the district’s leadership team and give members a better understanding of topics that come before them.
“It lets the exchange of information and ideas take place earlier in the process, so we don’t have situations where the first time a board member is made aware of an initiative or an action is on a formal board agenda,” he said.
Lopez, who has a business background, will initially serve on the operations committee headed by board member Justin Ellis. He said a better-informed board would “greatly” relieve the amount of administrative time needed to prepare for school board meetings.
Hardin said it’s too soon to tell whether the board will be cut back from two meetings a month to one.
“My desire would be that we go to one meeting a month,” she said.
Incoming Superintendent Rob Neu will serve on the government relations committee headed by board member Phil Horning.
“I think the board committees are an effective tool of ensuring board communications and informed decision-making,” said Neu, who starts July 1.
Horning, an attorney, said his committee will focus on legislation that affects the district, including funding, testing and academic standards.
“It will make the board more productive to the benefit of the district,” he said. “It will lead to franker discussions.”
Horning, though, isn’t convinced the board will be able to meet less than twice a month.
“I am skeptical that it would reduce the time that would have to be spent in formal meetings of the board, but I don’t know for sure,” he said.
Other committee leaders are Laura Massenat (nutrition) and Ron Millican (academics).