Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District’s school board recently amended its board operating procedures to create board subcommittees. However, these subcommittees will meet privately and actions and conversations happening in them will not be reported publicly. 

The trustees voted to “use Board Sub-committees to govern the district,” according to a post from Trustee Julie Hinaman. 

The sub-committees listed, so far, are finance and operations; academics, safety, vision, and planning; policy review; governance; and ad-hoc teacher retention.

They consist of three members appointed by board president Scott Henry. Given that the membership falls below the number required for a quorum, they don’t have to post their agenda or discussions and are not subject to the Texas Open Meetings Act, according to the district’s general counsel Marney Collins Sims. 

“When we’re all here it’s open to the public, full transparency, full accountability, the public can speak,” said Hinaman, “and my concern is only having small subcommittees is that those no longer require a quorum and they’re no longer open to the public.” 

Previously, they considered their board workshop, held ahead of the official board meeting, as a committee-of-the-whole and the only committee. The sub-committees are meant to be advisory, so they won’t take any formal actions and Sims said that they would include a section during the public board meeting where the board subcommittees would “report out” what happened in their meeting.

“You still have to have discussion and action because the law is clear, the board committees cannot substitute for the board as a whole,” said Sims. 

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.