Trustees still intend to meet and wield their authority, but Gearing now has the ability to make certain decisions in the event of an emergency when there is not enough time to call a board meeting.
During the 64-minute meeting broadcast live online, Gearing gave the trustees an update on the district, county, state and federal responses to coronavirus before trustees discussed and voted on the resolution.
The resolution gives Gearing the authority to:
- act in the place of the board to make all decisions regarding payment of employees during the school closure
- decide the amount of compensation of exempt and non-exempt employees during the closure
- add instructional hours and days to the 2019-2020 school calendar
- create guidelines regarding absences, leave time, leave days and compensation of employees who may be quarantined due to coronavirus
- seek necessary waivers from the Texas Education Agency for missed days or low attendance
- declare a catastrophe and temporarily suspend the Texas Public Information Act
- solicit, negotiate and enact contracts to protect property of LISD, as well as personal property, in order to protect students and staff
- apply for other waivers approved by state and national authorities, and
- contract and expend funds on crisis communication assistance.
Responding to trustee Aaron Johnson’s questions, Gearing said his new authority would only be used if a regularly scheduled or emergency meeting could not happen in time to address a particular crisis.
Trustee Jim Mackay asked CFO Elaine Cogburn how the added expenses would be tracked and funded. Cogburn said surplus funds in the budget would probably pay for the two-week closure, but there may need to be a budget amendment to allocate more funds “if the closure goes beyond two weeks.” Spending would be tracked by either creating a separate fund or an account code.
Public notice was given one hour before the meeting, which was broadcast live on the LISD website and involved trustees, Gearing and senior staff linked by video from different locations.
On March 16, Gov. Greg Abbott suspended part of the Texas Open Meetings Act, which guarantees public access to and participation at government meetings. The requirement that governments provide a physical meeting space where people can watch and interact has been suspended.
Government bodies still need to provide a 72-hour notice for meetings unless it is deemed an emergency meeting, when the window winnows to one hour, according to LISD spokesperson Corey Ryan.
LISD’s next regularly scheduled meeting March 26 may be conducted online as well, Gearing said.