Plano’s elected school board trustees agreed Tuesday to delegate specific decision-making authority to the district’s top bureaucrat during the course of the coronavirus closures.
At their April 7 meeting, held via videoconference, Plano Independent School District trustees voted 6-1 to allow Superintendent Sara Bonser to make purchasing and other decisions without board approval.
Bonser requested the authority so she can act quickly throughout the COVID-19 emergency, and told trustees she will use her new power “with great discretion.”
“This is not about trying to have more authority,” Bonser said. “None of these items were placed in the resolution lightly or without specific purpose.”
“We were voted into office by constituents in Plano ISD, and these are responsibilities citizens expect us to fulfill,” Trustee Cody Weaver said Tuesday. “I do believe the oversight we provide is very important, and I feel an element of that oversight remains in this resolution.”
Trustee Heather Wang cast the lone dissenting vote.
“I think abdicating the board’s oversight at this time is unwarranted and uncalled-for,” Dr. Wang told Texas Scorecard. “With videoconferencing, the board should be able to have more meetings if needed.”
“It’s inconvenient, but it’s the right thing to do, in my opinion,” she added.
Trustees hired Bonser, a former Plano teacher and administrator, to serve as superintendent in 2018.
During the course of the emergency closures, Bonser now has authority to:
- Purchase goods and services without following normal competitive purchasing requirements, which FISD’s chief financial officer said usually takes 30-60 days;
- Pay non-exempt employees who can’t work from home up to 1.5 times their regular pay rate, with the added expenses possibly reimbursed through state or federal programs;
- Apply for state education waivers and authorize agreements, to be ratified later by the board; and
- Donate personal protective equipment and other materials to local medical facilities or first responders.
The superintendent’s expanded authority automatically terminates when the district resumes normal operations.
Last week, Frisco school board members also gave their superintendent new authority to make certain decisions unilaterally while schools are shut down due to the coronavirus outbreak.
All Texas schools are temporarily closed to in-person classes until May 4, under an executive order issued by the governor.