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School board showed some real leadership in deliberations

I t’s rare that a unanimous vote by a deliberative body, in which all seven persons participating were basically traveling in the same direction, should provide a civics lesson.

But that’s exactly what happened last week at a meeting of the Rockdale ISD Board of Trustees.

The issue was employee pay, not a small one since salaries average over 80 percent of a general fund budget. On the table was an issue both simple and complex.

Simple: All seven school board members wanted sincerely to increase compensation for teachers and other employees.

Complex: The district’s new budget is based, at the moment, on a $2 million deficit. Trustees have been grappling for four months with a plan they commissioned by the Texas Association of School Boards to increase pay, long-term, over many years. That plan was before them. Also before them were one-year alternatives with numbers calculated on two, two-and-one-half and three-percent increases.

What to do? It could have easily been delayed to workshops, conferences, committees or task forces. But board president Lee Jenkins, firmly but gently, told trustees “let’s make some difference tonight for our people.”

What followed was pretty impressive. Jenkins made sure all seven trustees gave their opinions and talked them out. The board not only talked, it listened to each other and shaped a consensus. Everyone certainly didn’t get exactly the solution they wanted. But, in the end, it was 7-0.

The consensus was a 2.5-percent increase now and a pledge to do more later this term if the state sends back funding as it did last year.

That’s not to say split votes, and honest, vigorous debate, aren’t healthy and sometimes necessary.

But, for whatever it’s worth, Rockdale ISD trustees showed everyone the way it’s supposed to work.—M.B.

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2013-09-05 digital edition

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