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The Racine Unified School District Board of Education is set to vote on whether to approve Superintendent Dr. Lolli Haws as “in compliance with exception” for its requirements that the superintendent protect the district’s assets at their meeting Jan. 23.

The exception in question concerns a lack of digital archives for physical records, which will take at least three to five years to digitize and cost the district a minimum of $500,000 to fix.

Annual monitoring report

Haws was certified as “in compliance with exception” on an Operational Expectations 7 (OE-7) Monitoring report studied by RUSD board members at a work session Monday, January 9. The report is a district report required by the Racine Unified board of education coherent governance policy. It is produced by the administration and approved by the board.

Haws was rated as compliant with all but one of the indicators of OE-7, which deals with the protection of the district’s assets.

The report, based on a survey of the 2016 calendar year, cited the superintendent for failing to make sure the protection of “all physical records from damage or loss,” by not having digitized a host of different records, ranging from student health information to payroll documents.

Two separate plans are mentioned in the report to discuss the shortcoming.

The first, which the report states has already begun through the digitization of school emergency cards but has no price tag listed, includes the migration of “all required records such as cumulative student folders and health records” to digital platforms over the next three to five years.

Stacy Tapp, Chief of Communication and Community Engagement, said that the school-based files were the focus of a future project.

“Our Chief Information Officer Tim Peltz will update the Board later this summer or early fall, with the project plan,” Tapp said.

According to the report, the plan will improve systems to track and protect physical files, records, and information. It also involves developing new policy for schools record keeping rules.

A second plan “to digitize physical records and administrative archives” that include documents like “payroll and HR files” will cost an estimated half million dollars over an unspecified period and will be dealt with incrementally. Portions of that plan might appear as early as the 2017-18 budget season, according to the report.

Board member Julie McKenna said in an email response that she was unsure about the finances involved in the plans mentioned by the report.

“Those are good questions,” McKenna said.

The president of the board, Dr. Michael Frontier, may authorize Dr. Haws’ compliance only with the approval of a majority vote.

The Board of Education is expected to vote on the report at the next January business meeting, slated for January 23.

Email requests for comment were sent to board president Dr. Michael Frontier and other members but no responses were received by Friday at 3 p.m.

Operational Expectations

OE-7 is scheduled according to the coherent governance policy to undergo review every January. It is one of 11 different operational expectations, each of which the board reviews at scheduled intervals throughout the year.

The Board of Education expects the superintendent to make sure that assets, including files, records and intellectual property, are protected from loss and damage. This includes digitizing paper records.

While no damage or loss to physical records held by RUSD had been reported, the report states that, “it is not known if adequate protections are in place to assure physical records will not be damaged or lost.”

The report states that the board will receive updates about how the plan is progressing toward its goals in the fall of 2017 and January 2018. The latter date is when the board will receive its next report.

The full extent of assets that the BOE expects the Superintendent to protect includes intellectual property, such as the “creations, inventions, artistic works, images, names and designs used in the operation of the District,” such as “original curriculum, teaching materials and other items created by District employees as part of their job for use by the District or its employees.” It also extends to “All data and documents, electronic and non-electronic” as well as “property or equipment with an original cost of $5,000 or more.”

Union Weighs In On Coherent Governance

“Part of the problem is coherent governance,” according to Angelina Cruz, president of Racine Education Association since June of 2016, referring to the set of bylaws that govern the Board of Education’s decision-making ability and relationship with the superintendent. “The way it is set up is that the info the board gets comes from administration. So the assessment that says Lolli met all of the board’s expectations came from Lolli.”

“The reports are not perfect,” in the personal opinion of McKenna, who added that, reports have shown improvement over the years and are helpful to the board in its overseeing the operations of the district.

Coherent governance policy on which the board operates would suggest that if the board authorizes the president’s signature on the OE-7 report, they are in effect approving $500,000 to be used for the digitization of all of the assets held by the district.

The RUSD website’s “Coherent Governance” document states that the model was adopted by the district for its board in 2008. According to the bylaws for the board in that document: “The Superintendent is the Board’s sole point of connection to the operational organization. The Board will direct the operational organization only through the Superintendent, functioning as the chief executive officer.”

The policy also holds that the Superintendent’s ability to make decisions is constrained only by matters on which the board votes. Within the limits of the Operational Expectations established by the board, the Superintendent has authority “to develop any other policies or regulations, make any decisions, establish any practices, and develop any activities the Superintendent deems appropriate” in view of the results established by the board. The Superintendent has no requirement to gain Board approval for such decisions.

Learn more

The full report can be found at http://www.rusd.org/sites/default/files/meeting-minutes/1.9.2014%20Work%20Session%20Packet.pdf

The board’s coherent governance policies are available at: http://www.rusd.org/sites/default/files/uploads/About_Us/Board_of_Education/Monitoring_Reports/2016/Coherent%20Governance%20Policies%20-%20Website%20Rev12.16.pdf

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.