Havre Daily News
After filling out a form that reviewed each other's performance on the Havre school board, board members realized Tuesday night they need to work on mutual respect and open discussions.
The statement on the evaluation form that received the lowest rating, with a 2.6 out of 4, was: “The board exhibits mutual respect and cooperation at the board table.”
“We need to work on the mutual respect,” one of the board members wrote on the form.
“I know we can do better,” board member Teresa Miller said during Tuesday night's board planning session.
Board vice chair Kathie Newell used herself as an example.
“I have a quick tongue and temper. My comments might make someone uncomfortable,” Newell said.
Teresa Miller said the board members don't always have the same opinion and she doesn't know what other trustees are thinking unless they express it. She wants more board members to speak on issues before the board takes a vote.
“Once our vote is done, that is our opinion,” she added.
Board member Judy Bricker said some trustees might be afraid to have the public see disagreements among board members. She added that it is OK to disagree but not be disagreeable.
Teresa Miller agreed.
“Healthy discussion is better for the public to see. The important issues need to be discussed in public,” she said.
Trustee Todd Hanson said board members are speaking not only for themselves but also for their constituents. Hanson said the public's opinions might not be popular but need to be voiced.
“As a board, we are predisposed to pin the message to the messenger,” he said.
Board members discussed whether it would be helpful to preface their constituents' questions and comments with a disclaimer stating who expressed the view. Some members said they would view the comments differently if they knew they were from a constituent.
“Our point of view needs to be on all voices and all data. If it's on behalf of a number of constituents, I think it's very helpful to know that,” Bricker said.
Newell said it is helpful to know what the public is talking about. She added that she doesn't hear anything from constituents on some issues and she tries to bring forth questions she thinks others might ask.
“I assume that comments are from the constituents. If it were a disclaimer, I'd say that every time. ‘I've heard from my constituency...,'” Hanson said.
Superintendent Kirk Miller said the board should be aware when members are hearing comments from the public.
“I don't want to see board members afraid of voicing their opinion,” he added.
The superintendent said board members should treat each other as legislators do and disagree but respect each other.