RPB Council Expands Ed Board Role With Caveats

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council on Tuesday extended the length of terms for members of the Education Advisory Board and directed that the board have a designee monitor and report on school board meetings.

However, a new policy was developed to forbid board members from working for or holding certain positions with the school district.

Vice Mayor Jeff Hmara, the council’s liaison to the panel, had asked for terms comparable to other such boards, and that a member be authorized to monitor school board meetings.

Councilman David Swift asked that the resolution be pulled from the consent agenda, requesting that Hmara clarify its purpose.

Hmara said the Education Advisory Board had discussed the changes at a recent meeting. “There were a couple of items that I wanted to bring to the council,” he said, citing the possibility of extending the term from one year to two years to provide some continuity from year to year.

“The other issue that I brought up was the notion of having at least one member attend the school board meetings periodically and reporting the highlights of activities that are underway or issues that might be of interest to Royal Palm Beach,” Hmara said.

Swift said that he supported the idea, but cautioned Hmara to be careful.

“It appears that we’re expanding the scope of the board, which I think is a good thing,” he said, before pointing out that it wasn’t too that long ago where a similar effort led some board members to overreach. “We kind of expanded the scope, and some people ran away with it.”

Swift said that a board with expanded authority would need to exclude people who might then have a conflict of interest.

“What you’re trying to do I think is a good thing, but I would like to make a suggestion for the membership,” he said. “The membership should be open to all village residents with the exception of those residents who are an employee of the school board or funded by the school board.”

He also suggested excluding anyone who is a member of any school board panel or committee. “We had some problems with the people who sat up here, who they represented,” Swift said. “If you wonder why we had a problem with Royal Palm Beach High School and the boundaries, we went down the wrong path, and I’m trying not to do that again.”

Swift suggested grandfathering in current members of the board, but setting new membership rules for new appointees. “We need to solve this issue if we’re going to expand it, and I apologize, but that is the history of it,” he said.

Mattioli agreed with Swift and added that the board should expand its efforts to be in contact with local parent-teacher associations, as well as the area’s school board member, Marcia Andrews, who lives in Royal Palm Beach.

Hmara said that Andrews regularly attends Education Advisory Board meetings. He credited his predecessor, Councilman Richard Valuntas, with giving the board an expanded role. “I was hoping to take another step,” Hmara said. “I do not want to repeat something that has been a problem, so I understand.”

He said he would have no problem with the conditions that Swift suggested for board membership.

Village Manager Ray Liggins asked whether the condition that an advisory board member not be on a school board committee might be too broad. “That could describe anybody who gets involved in their kid’s education on a PTA or a recreation board,” Liggins said.

Councilman Fred Pinto suggested that members specifically be excluded from the district’s boundaries committee, and the others agreed. The council then approved the new Education Advisory Board policies unanimously.