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11 remember negative aspects of the assessment and opportu- discussions in some other manner that does not violate its nities identified for improvement, they may become single- open meetings act (e.g., in small groups or during interviews minded and prevent the board from advancing other initia- with an outside administrator). tives or dealing with other issues until the negative findings are resolved. Consider holding discussions at a board retreat. Many boards conduct retreats to discuss longer-term or internal mat- Disclosure of assessments could reflect negatively on indi- ters (such as the performance assessment) in environments that vidual board members. Although the process addresses only often do not attract public or media attention because specific the collective performance of the board, if a board member is issues are not debated and often no action is to be taken. Such associated with a specific issue or characteristic (e.g., union retreats may have protection under a state's open meetings act, relations or frequent absences), an assessment finding on the and they may be well suited to self-assessment discussions. topic may be interpreted to reflect on the individual board member. Consider entrusting the process to an outside party that is equipped to legally or practically protect the informa- Disclosure of assessments could unbalance the scales on tion. The Handbook calls for written assessments to be pre- current transit issues. If there are key issues currently at pared by the board members. The assessments are then com- stake (e.g., a fare increase, a rail initiative, or service reduc- piled to form the basis of the self-assessment. In addition to tions), the assessment may seem to reflect on the issue in a the discussions themselves, sunshine laws may govern these way that changes board members' positions or changes pub- documents. Like the discussions, however, they may be pro- lic reaction. For example, a negative finding on financial man- tected under provisions governing the confidentiality of per- agement may undermine support for a fare increase, a nega- sonnel records. If the board asks someone outside the system tive finding on strategic planning may weaken a rail initiative, to administer the assessment, such as a consultant or external or a negative finding on public involvements might strengthen auditor, that person may be able to retain the documents opponents of service reductions. without subjecting them to public disclosure. Restriction of the documents to a trusted external party provides an addi- tional layer of confidentiality and practical protection against Guiding Access to Information inadvertent or subversive disclosure. Although the involvement and reaction of members of the community to the board assessment cannot be predicted any Consider discussions in a retreat without a written record. more accurately than their reaction to many other issues of In cases in which the board desires confidentiality and believes public interest, the board can choose among several steps to that the greatest uncertainty arises from the survey docu- guide access to the information. These steps are listed below. ments and other written records of the process (as opposed to discussion in open meetings), the board may wish to conduct Come to an agreement on the degree of confidentiality or the process without a written record. With outside assistance, disclosure desired. If the board has an opportunity to discuss all of the steps of the process can be conducted orally. The the self-assessment at the outset, it should discuss the issue one aspect of the self-assessment process that should be com- of confidentiality. A decision should be made regarding dis- mitted to writing is the documentation of goals, which are to closure of the self-assessment process and disclosure of its be compared to progress at a later point in time. results. The entire board should be informed. Public Discussion of Self-Assessment Results Consider executive session if permitted by law. If the board has decided to keep the process confidential, it may be If a public discussion of the self-assessment results is antic- possible to discuss the assessment in a closed session. Under ipated, it may be desirable to draw up conclusions in advance specified circumstances, most boards are permitted to meet and present a plan of action to address the opportunities dis- in private, without public or media representatives. If the law closed by the assessment at the same time that the public dis- limits the reasons for which a board may convene in execu- cussion is held. Alternatively, a schedule for formulating such tive session, the permissible reasons may include confiden- a plan of action could be presented. tiality of personnel issues or personnel performance evalua- tion (and the board itself may be included in the definition of "personnel"). The board's attorney may also identify other WHO SHOULD ADMINISTER circumstances under which the board would be permitted to THE ASSESSMENT? discuss the assessment in executive session. If the board desires confidentiality but is not permitted to discuss the The board chair should designate who will administer the assessment in executive session, it may conduct confidential self-assessment process for the board in consultation with the