On May 18, Conversations on New Jersey Education, NJSBA’s online radio show, featured an interview with the acting executive director of the School Ethics Commission, and two long-time commission members, about recent advisory opinions. During the program, the participants addressed several areas regarding the Commission’s recent decisions. These included:
Volunteer Activities Advisory Opinion A32-14 advised that a board member could not volunteer in school theater productions when his spouse was a teacher and theater advisor. The employee/spouse would be supervising, directing and managing the board member. The board member’s contact with students, parents and staff would be inconsistent with the board member’s role, according to the commission.
During the show, the participants commented that the following factors would be considered in determining whether a board member’s volunteering would violate the School Ethics Act: Is it a one-day or a day-to-day activity?; Does the board member have authority over school funds or school personnel?; Does school personnel have authority over the board member?; Is the board member a guest; Does the board member have involvement in decision-making and direction of the activity?
Administrator Participation in Negotiations. Advisory Opinion A43-14 advised that a chief school administrator (CSA), whose non-dependent daughter lived in the household, worked as a paraprofessional in another school district and was covered by the union agreement through an agency shop clause, could not participate in negotiations between the board and the local education association.
When asked about the ability of the conflicted CSA to provide technical information to the board when no one else could do so, the radio show participants commented that the technical information exception for conflicted administrators was probably no longer operational. If an administrator is conflicted, then he or she is conflicted, they said. While not part of a formal advisory opinion or case law decision, this represents a departure from long-standing commission advice, dating back to 1994. Board members should discuss this new commission position with their board attorney to determine the impact on collective negotiations in their school district.
Listen on Demand The program, “A Conversation with Members of the New Jersey School Ethics Commission,” is available on demand through the NJSBA’s BlogTalk Radio web page. Board members are encouraged to discuss the ramifications of these decisions with their board attorney.
Board members are encouraged to discuss the ramifications of School Ethics Commission Advisory Opinions with their board attorney.