Once upon a time, the Manteca Unified Board of Trustees met twice a month.
Maybe even more often that, said Manteca resident and school district teacher Leo Bennett-Cauchon who would like to see the board go back to that previous practice of meeting twice a month. He told the board at the Dec. 9 meeting that this meeting frequency would increase public participation in the discussion of school-related issues.
Three board members who have served the longest remember those years when the trustees met more than once a month as they do today.
“We used to do it when I first came on board years ago,” said Trustee Michael Seelye of Area 3 who is on his third term.
Trustees Nancy Teicheira of Area 4 and Evelyn Moore of Area 5, both of whom have been serving for more than two decades, are the other two who are no strangers to the twice-a-month meetings.
“Whatever anybody wants to do is fine with me,” said Seelye, although he does not see the wisdom of having any additional board session “just to have a meeting” and thereby wasting staff’s time which would translate to more expenses for the district.
School district personnel who attend the board meetings are there as part of their job and are paid for that, he pointed out.
While he does not mind having the board meet twice a month, he does not think that is necessary. “(Superintendent) Jason (Messer) is a very organized person; he has everything pretty well nailed done,” Seelye said.
Sometimes the meetings take longer to cover all the agenda items, but everybody appears to be fine with that because they don’t have to come twice a month, he added.
Moore does not believe going back to the twice-a-month board meetings would be a good idea for additional fiscal reasons.
“It takes a lot of work to get the (agenda) packet ready,” she said.
She pointed out that the superintendent’s office is already understaffed, with only two secretaries instead of three doing the workload.
“And then the business department has things that they have to put out, and that (staff) has been lean as well,” Moore said.
“What we’re doing is adequate. I think we’re fine. We’ve been able to handle the business,” with just once-a-month meetings, she said.
Besides, the board always has “the right to call a special meeting if it’s necessary, she added.
As to public participation in board meetings, Moore pointed out that attendance has been “pretty much the same people” showing up.
“If they have an issue, they will come (to the meetings); otherwise, they have 10 million things to do, especially parents of young students. We never see them; they’re busy,” she said.
The days are past when “mother is home and dad goes to work,” she noted. These days, “mother and dad go to work.”
Trustee Sam Fant of Area 2 shares the sentiments of Seelye and Moore.
“I think if we need it, if it’s necessary, and there’s a need for it,” he said, a second meeting could be scheduled on top of the once-a-month regular schedule.
“It’s important to do the business with the public (participating),” Fant said, but he is also conscious of the role of the trustees as financial stewards at the same time. And meeting once or twice a month is not the issue, he said.
“I think we all have a passion to serve our community; I think we all do,” he said.
Newly elected board president Deborah Romero of Area 7 said she does not believe in changing something just to change it but should be done whatever is “best for the district.”
Trustee Alexander Bronson of Area 5, one of the two newest members of the board, declined to make any comment, adding he “won’t be conducting any interviews” with the Manteca Bulletin because of stories written about him during the elections which, he said, “were slanderous; they were borderline slanders in my book.”
Trustees Ashley Drain of Area 2 and Nancy Teicheira of Area 4 could not be reached for comment as of press time.