The idea of Camdenton R-III School Board members having an email address that the public can use to contact them at any time has been up in the air since the Sept. 9, 2013 board meeting.
As the board enters a new year, it looks like the email possibility is now a reality.
According to Assistant Superintendent Roma France, the email has been set up for the board members and is working. Soon, France plans to place a link on the district's website for patrons to have easy access to the email address.
"This will allow all board members to see any question posed by a patron. Protocol would be for the Board president and/or superintendent to respond to the patron on behalf of the district," France said. "If several questions come in on the same topic, then the item may be placed on the next board agenda."
France introduced the board to the idea of having board email addresses in September 2013. Then, she told the board that emails would go to a mail distribution group, firstname.lastname@example.org, which would be sent to each board member along with the superintendent or a designee. Members could respond directly to the original sender but not to the other board members. In most cases, the superintendent or administration will be the one to respond. If several emails are sent on one topic, that topic could become an agenda item.
France told the board that all emails on the school account are subject to the Sunshine Law. Emails on their personal accounts may or may not be subject to the Sunshine Law.
Board members are to never 'reply all' and make sure that it is clear that if they respond with an answer or opinion that it is their opinion and not that of the entire board.
Superintendent Tim Hadfield plans to announce the board email address in his next district-wide newsletter.
Suggested Ground Rules for Board Communication via eMail:
1. If you are providing Board members an e-mail address, all Board members by policy must sign the Authorized User Permit that staff and students must sign and Board member must agree to the same terms as staff and students.
2. E-mail sent and received to Board members using district accounts may be subject to disclosure under the Sunshine Law.
3. When publicizing Board@camdentonschools.org, the district will notify patrons of other methods of contacting the district such as phone call, letter, or personal visit. The district will also notify patrons of the process for requesting to be put on the Board's agenda.
4. When information is sent via the generic Board@camdentonschools.org, the protocol is for the superintendent or Board president to respond on behalf of the district and to cc the Board the response so that the Board knows the patron has been corresponded with and what was said.
Page 2 of 3 - If a Board member disagrees with the response or has questions, he or she is encouraged to immediately notify the superintendent and the Board president of that fact.
5. Any Board member may ask that a subject is added to the Board's agenda at the next meeting for discussion. The Board as a whole will ultimately vote when approving the agenda to determine if the issue will be discussed. All Board members need to be careful not to accidentally violate the Sunshine Law by attempting to have a Board discussion via e-mail.
However, Board members are free to direct questions or concerns to the superintendent or Board president.
6. A Board member who is not the Board president may correspond individually with a patron, but is required to indicate that the opinions expressed are his or her own and not the Board's. A Board member is prohibited from using a district-provided e-mail address contrary to district policy or law or to violate district policy or law.
7. In some situations, an e-mail message is too vague, the explanation is complicated, or it is difficult or inadvisable to respond by e-mail. In those situations, the superintendent or Board president will call the sender to obtain more information from the sender, speak with the sender directly about the issue, or ask the sender to come to the district so that more information may be obtained as opposed to responding by e-mail. When this is the case, the Board will be notified that the patron has been contacted.
8. The superintendent or Board president will not directly respond to anonymous messages, but will acknowledge receipt of the message and notify the sender of those rules.
9. The superintendent or Board president in their discretion may not respond to messages from the same sender that are repetitive, or messages that are threatening or that use profane language.
10. The superintendent or Board president will not directly respond to messages involving litigation, potential or pending litigation, or a situation on appeal pursuant to district policies or the law.
In addition, the superintendent or Board president may not respond to messages if advised by the district's attorney not to do so. However, the superintendent or Board president will acknowledge receipt of the message and notify the sender of the rules.
11. The purpose of Board@camdentonschools.org is not to circumvent existing district policies requiring that concerns are addressed at the lowest level. The superintendent or Board president may simply direct a sender to the teacher, principal or another person in the district that is in the best position to address the subject.
12. There is no right to a district account and if a Board member does not follow the rules his or her account may be eliminated.
Page 3 of 3 - 13. Persons communicating with the Board via email should state their name, telephone number, and address as is the protocol for public comment.