The world we live in is connected more than ever thanks to modern technology like Skype and satellite phones. However, the Anchorage School Board wants to curb the amount of teleconferencing that takes place among members.
The board passed, by a 6-1 margin Thursday a mandatory attendance policy. All elected members must attend 75% of the board meetings over a 2 year period or faced being removed from the board.
"We are a very small working board, and every member counts,” said board member Natasha Von Imhof, who helped craft the legislation.
The rule only applies to school board meetings. Members can still participate through the phone, but it would not count toward their attendance number.
Pat Higgins cast the lone dissenting vote. In April, he took a job in the Marshall Islands, thousands of miles from Anchorage and on the other side of the International Date Line.
"People working on the slopes where they work two weeks on and two weeks off, this would exclude them from being considered,” said Higgins of the legislation. “People that travel a great deal."
But retired teacher David Nees, who pushed the board for a clearer definition between present and absent says Higgins should consider the ramifications of being a school board member before running for the job.
"Nobody recruited him, he went out for the job, and he knew there were 22 or 25 meetings a year,” said Nees. “The average board member has to put 15 to 20 hours of time into the job every week."
Higgins says he took off a whole year from his overseas job to work on a variety of issues in Anchorage, proof he's more than capable of doing the job from halfway around the globe.
"There’s a list of everything from everyday math to career technology expansion, to budget revisions, to accountability in the classroom that were all championed by me."
Von Imhof says exceptions to this rule and any others passed by the board can be made only with a 5-2 super-majority vote.
Higgins’ term expires in April of 2014, this policy will not apply to him unless he's re-elected.
Contact Adam Pinsker