RPS School Board Silences Member ...

I don't know about you, but I have had just about enough of the bad Kabuki theater and the constant undertow of latent racism that permeates and passes for public education in the City of Richmond, Virginia.  To be sure, the City of Richmond government and Richmond Public Schools (RPS) have long been the epicenter from which elected officials and citizens wrestle with racial tensions and inequities that stem from Richmond's past and present. 
                                                                                                                                  I must confess that despite serving six years as the Third District member of the RPS School Board  [2002-2008, four during the L. Douglas Wilder Mayoral administration], I still cannot understand why any School Board member, much less a majority, would even think it is their mission to protect RPS Superintendent Yvonne Brandon.  It isn't. (Click here to see what the Virginia Code has to say about the duties of a School Board and click here to see the duties of a division school superintendent).

With the notable exception of Kim B. Gray (Second District), a majority of the SB members really do believe that if only Mayor Dwight Jones and City Council would give them the $23 million dollars extra they requested, and if only people like you and me would simply stop asking so many questions, especially the ones ones that are negative and critical, our schools could be magically transformed into bastions of learning.   If only ...

Now, while I steadfastly believe all children can learn, after attending several meetings of the Mayor's Task Force and most recently the Aug. 20, 2012 RPS School Board meeting, I am not so sure that School Board members and Supt. Brandon can (or are even willing) to learn.  Seriously.  After all, Richmond is the former capitol of the Confederacy, birthplace of "Massive Resistance" and the town that drove Edgar Allan Poe to drink.

Case in point: the histrionic antics displayed during the August 20, 2012 SB meeting held in City Council Chambers.  When it came time to adopt the agenda, Gray and Norma Murdoch-Kitt,  (Third District member) each asked that the agenda be amended to allow each a personal point of privilege in which to share information and concerns with their colleagues.  Their requests were duly made and approved.

Now, what happened next is proof that we really are in nut country.  Kim Bridges (First District member and former School Board chair) was not even seated when the board amended and approved the agenda, nonetheless, she took umbrage that the individual points of privilege were approved and asked that Gray and Murdoch-Kitt NOT be allowed to bring their information and concerns before the board.  At one point, Bridges even threatened (yes!) to ask for a recess so she could go home and gather any materials she might have left there that would be relevant to the issues at hand.  Lest anyone think she was kidding, Bridges even reminded everyone that she pulled this little stunt on a previous occasion and left the entire meeting in limbo for a full-hour while she drove home to gather her papers.  Amazingly, she actually sounded proud of herself when she said this.  Really.

The information that Gray wanted to share is substantive and concerns the "new" accreditation standards embedded in NCLB waiver that the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) received from the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE).  

She wanted to ask her colleagues to support making a request to the VDOE that they reconsider using benchmarks that judge children based on their race.  (See sidebar at far right of this page).

Given that Page clearly doesn't have a clue about how to run a meeting according to Robert's Rules of Order and that the SB's $1,000 a day lawyer (including weekends and holidays) doesn't either, I should not have been surprised when the lawyer, Jonnell Lilly, weighed in after the board voted on Bridges' (nearly unintelligible) motion to table Gray's request for a moment of privilege to bring the matter of the new benchmarks before the board.  (They never actually got around to voting on Murdoch-Kitt's request for a moment of privilege).

The vote on the motion was 4-4 and the lawyer declared that it would have to be brought back to the board for consideration when all nine members would be present. 

Never mind that the motion to keep Gray from talking to the board should have failed for failure to attain a majority.  The following is provided by John R. Butcher and is from the most recent edition of Robert's Rules of Order, which the Richmond School Board has agreed to use to conduct their meetings: 

37. Rescind, Repeal, or Annul. Any vote taken by an assembly, except those mentioned further on, may be rescinded by a majority vote, provided notice of the motion has been given at the previous meeting or in the call for this meeting; or it may be rescinded without notice by a two-thirds vote, or by a vote of a majority of the entire membership. The notice may be given when another question is pending, but cannot interrupt a member while speaking. To rescind is identical with the motion to amend something previously adopted, by striking out the entire by-law, rule, resolution, section, or paragraph, and is subject to all the limitations as to notice and vote that may be placed by the rules on similar amendments. It is a main motion without any privilege, and therefore can be introduced only when there is nothing else before the assembly. It cannot be made if the question can be reached by calling up the motion to reconsider which has been previously made. It may be made by any member; it is debatable, and yields to all privileged and incidental motions; and all of the subsidiary motions may be applied to it. The motion to rescind can be applied to votes on all main motions, including questions of privilege and orders of the day that have been acted upon, and to votes on an appeal, with the following exceptions: votes cannot be rescinded after something has been done as a result of that vote that the assembly cannot undo; or where it is in the nature of a contract and the other party is informed of the fact; or, where a resignation has been acted upon, or one has been elected to, or expelled from, membership or office, and was present or has been officially notified. In the case of expulsion, the only way to reverse the action afterwards is to restore the person to membership or office, which requires the same preliminary steps and vote as is required for an election.

20. Orders of the Day. * * *

It is the duty of the chair to announce the business to come before the assembly in its proper order, and if he always performs this duty there will be no occasion for calling for the orders of the day. But there are occasions when the chair fails to notice that the time assigned for a special order has arrived, or he thinks that the assembly is so interested in the pending question that it does not wish yet to take up the special order assigned for that time, and therefore delays announcing it. In such a case, as already stated, any member has a right to call for the orders of the day, and thus compel the chair either to announce the order or else put the question, "Will the assembly proceed to the orders of the day?" To refuse to take up the orders at the appointed time is an interference with the order of business similar to suspending the rules and should require the same vote namely, two-thirds. In other words, a two-thirds vote in the negative is necessary to prevent proceeding to the orders of the day. If the assembly refuses to proceed to the orders of the day the orders cannot be called for again until the pending business is disposed of.

* * *
. It is customary to adopt a program, or order of business, in conventions in session for several days. Since the delegates and invited speakers come from a distance, it is very important that the program be strictly adhered to. No change can be made in it after its adoption by the assembly, except by a two-thirds vote. When the hour assigned to a certain topic arrives, the chair puts to vote any questions pending and announces the topic for the hour. This is done because, under such circumstances, the form of the program implies that the hour, or other time, assigned to each topic is all that can be allowed. But, if any one moves to lay the question on the table, or postpone it to a certain time, or refer it to a committee, the chair should recognize the motion and immediately put it to vote without debate. Should any one move to extend the time allotted the pending question, it should be decided instantly without debate, a two-thirds vote being necessary for the extension. . . .