You may have heard or read concerns expressed about “unanimous voting” by the sitting board members of the Imlay City Board of Education by three candidates running for the ICS Board in the November 3 general election.
There is a distinct and important difference between unanimous voting and unanimous opinion, value, and belief. The current Board of Education is comprised of a diverse group of seven individuals, both male and female, ranging in age from their 30s to their 60s. Four of the members graduated from Imlay City High School and three bring a different educational experience, having graduated from other districts. There is a farmer/business owner, a construction company owner/attorney, a salon owner, a youth pastor, a physician/business owner, an ordained minister, and a long-time, stay-at-home mom with business ownership experience serving on the board. There are fresh voices that have served from two months to four years and voices with long-standing institutional knowledge that have served from six to sixteen years. Each member brings their own unique perspectives and opinions to the board table.
So why then, do so many motions pass with a unanimous vote? There are several reasons for this.
Firstly, board members must often vote on motions to adopt new policies or revise existing policies in order to comply with recently enacted legislation. It would be problematic if board members were to vote against complying with the law.
Secondly, board members often vote on routine and rather perfunctory matters, such as when monthly meetings will be held, or whether to allow the superintendent and board president to close schools due to a weather-related or mechanical emergency. These are simple, common sense decisions for the board to vote on.
Thirdly, and most importantly, a unanimous vote can often be achieved when a board has established a professional, collegial, and respectful workplace where varying opinions are voiced and heard by all, where a rigorous interchange of ideas is welcomed, and where members work toward gaining consensus on matters of importance before a vote is taken. Sometimes the consensus building process takes place during the regularly scheduled monthly board meetings and sometimes it takes place in committee work. The work of building consensus to place the 2019 bond initiative on the ballot took place over the course of nearly one year and required multiple meetings involving the board, staff members, and community stakeholders.
I am proud of the manner in which our board conducts itself and its business. Our board members are unanimous in sharing respect for all at the table and unanimous in their commitment to work collaboratively for the good of our students, staff, and community. The fact that our board arrives at consensus on most matters should be a point of pride, not a matter of concern.
President, Imlay City Board of Education