A Houston-area school board has opted to assign only three of its members to each of its subcommittees, avoiding the need for a quorum and public disclosure.
The trustees of Cypress-Fairbanks ISD recently approved the creation of several “fact-finding, deliberative, and advisory” subcommittees that will operate outside the public eye, according to Community Impact. School board president Scott Henry assigned three trustees to each of the five subcommittees, allowing the board to essentially bypass the Texas Open Meetings Act.
All school board members voted in favor of the operating procedures at a meeting on January 29, yet trustee Julie Hinaman did voice some concerns at a previous meeting on December 7.
“I think it’s important that all board members are present to receive reports, and when we’re all here, it’s open to the public; it’s full transparency, full accountability; the public can speak,” Hinaman said, according to Community Impact. “And my concern [with] only having small subcommittees is that those no longer require a quorum and then are no longer open to the public.”
However, the move has also been applauded for being more efficient, as the subcommittees will conduct research and report their findings to the board in an advisory capacity during regular public board meetings.
“You still have to have discussion and action because the law is clear, the board committees cannot substitute for the board as a whole,” said Marney Collins Sims, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD’s general counsel, according to the Texas Scorecard.
The subcommittees are as follows:
- Finance and Operations, chaired by Lucas Scanlon, with Justin Ray and Hinaman.
- Academics, Safety, Vision, and Planning, chaired by Christine Kalmbach, with Natalie Blasingame and Hinaman.
- Policy Review, chaired by Todd LeCompte, with Scanlon and Henry.
- Governance, chaired by Ray, with Blasingame and LeCompte.
- Ad-hoc Teacher Retention, chaired by Blasingame, with Kalmbach and Ray.
According to the latest available Texas Education Agency accountability report, 58% of students at Cypress-Fairbanks ISD scored at grade level on the 2021-2022 STAAR exam, which was above the state average of 48%. Relatedly, 92.6% of its Class of 2022 earned a diploma on time compared to the state average of 90%.
By comparison, at Dallas ISD, which has been criticized for purported lack of transparency, just 41% of students scored at grade level on the STAAR exam that same year, and nearly 20% of its graduating seniors did not receive a diploma within four years.