By Carly Sauvageau and Kristen Hackbarth
Washoe County School District trustees this week debated the right to employee confidentiality, district transparency and liability in cases of non-union employee complaints as they sought to revise and update a number of policies.
Provisions for how district employees not part of a bargaining unit should file complaints was outlined in a new policy reviewed by trustees, Board Policy 4700. Employees who lodge complaints and who are part of a bargaining unit are covered through other policies already in place.
During Tuesday’s Board Policy meeting Trustee Jeff Church suggested an amendment to the confidentiality section of the board’s policy on employee complaints. The amendment would allow for the employee making the complaint to make it public if they desired.
“I think things should be transparent to the maximum degree possible, not confidential,” Church said. “There’s a certain degree the public has a right to know, especially after the matter’s been adjudicated.”
Emily Ellison, the district’s human resources chief and Neil Rombardo, WCSD’s legal counsel, both advised against this, saying that the protection of employees – both those filing and accused in a complaint – outweighed the need for public transparency.
Rombardo added that if an employee could make a complaint public it would interfere with the investigation and potentially slander the person who was the subject of the complaint.
It could cause a “chilling effect” and incentivize employees to keep complaints to themselves for fear of retaliation, Ellison added. “Most people don’t have an intimate understanding of confidentiality law, and so I think many many people would assume information that they didn’t want to be made public would be made public.”
The policy was brought to motion by Trustee Adam Mayberry, seconded by Trustee Joe Rodriguez and passed unanimously. The policy will now be reviewed during a regular meeting of the Board of Trustees.
School scheduling and overcrowding
The board also gave initial approval for updates to a policy that would guide adjusting school schedules if schools were to become overcrowded. This policy has been in consideration for several years, and in other discussions trustees questioned whether it is even still relevant since more schools have been built.
“You never know,” said Deputy Superintendent Debra Biersdorff, who said the policy was reviewed many times in the past several years.
Updates to the policy included the definition of a “balanced calendar year.”
Agenda item removals
At the request of Trustee Church, Board President Angela Taylor reviewed the policy for adding and removing items from meeting agendas. The board approved to direct the superintendent to amend Board Policy 9110 to outline how items are removed from agendas.
During the policy discussion Taylor said and agenda item from regular Board of Trustees meetings for approval of the agenda was removed by her, which upon review is against policy. She said starting at the Feb. 22 board meeting approval would be added back to the regular agenda and would remain pending unless approved by the board for removal.
The process outlined in the policy revision would be for a board member to bring to the board the item they want removed, another member would need to second the move, and it would have to be passed by the rest of the board, similar to how agenda items are approved.
Update: This story has been updated to note that board policies approved during the meeting will be forwarded for review and potential approval during a regular meeting of the Board of Trustees.