Eanes ISD board votes to uphold superintendent's authority to make necessary decisions during COVID-19 pandemic

Trustees met virtually April 28 for a regular monthly board meeting. (Courtesy Eanes ISD)
Trustees met virtually April 28 for a regular monthly board meeting. (Courtesy Eanes ISD)

Trustees met virtually April 28 for a regular monthly board meeting. (Courtesy Eanes ISD)

The Eanes ISD board of trustees met virtually April 28 for a regular meeting, ending with an agenda item related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The item would have effectively revoked a delegation of authority to Superintendent Tom Leonard, which was passed by trustees during an emergency called meeting March 14.

The resolution allows Leonard to take mitigative actions when necessary during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, a move Leonard said provides the district with the ability to stay agile.

Trustee John Havenstrite expressed immediate hesitation in the potential revocation. According to Havenstrite, as the pandemic continues he would like to see the district remain flexible in its decision-making process.

Trustee Jason Paull agreed, saying he also opposed the agenda item.

“[Leonard] is really active in our interests,” Paull said. “Like John, I think there’s still a ton of uncertainty.”

According to Leonard, the delegated authority has been utilized on one occasion since March 14. A decision was made to provide premium pay to a number of the district’s essential staff such as cleaning crews and food and nutrition employees in light of the pandemic. These employees are those required to physically work on campus.

Trustee James Spradley disagreed with fellow board members arguing the board should not delay this decision any further.

When the board initially passed the resolution, there was uncertainty related to how the board could legally meet on a virtual platform while staying in compliance with the Texas Open Meetings Act. According to Spradley, the state has since modified regulations allowing the board to meet through videoconference.

“I think we owe it to [Leonard] to be a team of eight,” Spradley said. “We don’t need to continue to put this off.”

Leonard noted he was comfortable with the board's decision either way, saying many decisions that have been made since March have been administration decisions and therefore would not have required the delegation of authority.

Following a discussion, the board opposed the agenda item 6-1 with Spradley voting in favor.

As stated in the resolution, Leonard has the authority to make a number of decisions for the benefit of students and staff, including those on employee compensation, state waivers and more.

By Amy Rae Dadamo
Amy Rae Dadamo is the reporter for Lake Travis-Westlake, where her work focuses on city government and education. Originally from New Jersey, Amy Rae relocated to Austin after graduating from Ramapo College of New Jersey in May 2019.