Trouble In Paradise?  Delray Beach Education Board

October 8, 2023

Two new volunteer members and prominent leaders in the education field recently quit the City’s Education Board. Given the importance of civic involvement to The Delray Way, it is critical to examine how the city of Delray Beach utilizes its volunteer advisory boards. Members of several advisory boards have stated that the city is reining in their influence and even their conversations. 
Let’s first examine what advisory boards typically are, and what they do to serve a city. 
Volunteer advisory boards are relied upon in all cities as an essential component of city governance. They serve as a vital link between local governments and their communities as a tool to obtain valuable expertise, unique insights, community representation, and accountability, for free. Their input generally leads to more informed, inclusive, and effective decision-making. Delray Beach further defines through city ordinances what each advisory board is charged.
Our city has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve our schools and programming.  More than $50 million has been made available for planning, designing, building, and programming our schools. Approximately 50% of our property taxes and 35% of the "penny" tax are devoted to education and represent an opportunity for Delray to have top tier schools, but not if we scare off results-oriented board members.
How Not to Treat Citizen Volunteers
Only board members who resigned can provide reasons for voluntarily departing and they were not interviewed for this article. But there were enough people on the board and members of the public present at meetings to reveal problems that may have led to these resignations and contributed to the dysfunction between the board and city administrators. It is clear that there were administrative breakdowns: new members were not notified of their appointments nor given sufficient preparation materials. They were continuously marginalized in discussions, encumbered by overly strict interpretations of rules and regulations, and often provided erroneous information.

- Board members were not provided with the minimum background information necessary for their jobs. When a board member requested such information, they were advised that such a request was a violation of the Sunshine law.

- The assistant city attorney did a presentation on September 11 on the Sunshine Law informing the board that they must use their official city email addresses though several of them had not yet been assigned email addresses months after being appointed. One board member pointed out that she had been on the board for over a year and still does not have the correct city email address despite continuously raising the issue.

- The Education Board is required to conduct meetings using Robert's Rules of Order, yet meetings are chaotic, frequently canceled for a lack of quorum, and often indulge in rambling discussions regarding subjects that are not on the agenda. 


- The Board was provided with one paragraph of the city ordinance under which they operate rather than the entire ordinance—which is only two pages long. This allowed staff to misconstrue the Board’s role. For instance, staff told the Board they were not to communicate with the Palm Beach County School Board when the complete ordinance states the chair of the Delray Education Board is the liaison with the PBC school district.

- At the meeting on September 11, the assistant city manager sat in on the board meeting without introducing himself or being on the agenda. He took control of the meeting which would seem to violate the Sunshine Law as he is not a support staff to the Education Board. 

- The assistant city manager interrupted board discussion about Palm Beach County School Board to admonish the board for “wasting time” discussing something the “Commissioners had no interest in,” despite the fact the city ordinance states that board responsibilities include “review of the goals and policies of the city’s comprehensive plan,” and the board “Chairperson shall be the official spokesperson for the Board and the formal liaison between the Education Board and the School Board.” The assistant city manager’s words are troubling because the State Department of Education mandates an Interlocal Agreement (ILA) between the School District and the City. An ILA is a proven mechanism for Delray Beach to coordinate planning for our local schools with the County. This ILA is still in force, has withstood the test of time, is incorporated in the Comprehensive Plan, and is the vehicle for delivering quality education to Delray students. 

- Per city ordinance, the Education Board is “an advisory body to the City Commission,” not to city staff. 

- The assistant city manager also advised the board that they do not direct staff, the education coordinator specifically, but instead provide advice when asked. The city attorney’s representative stated it was not appropriate for the chair to have input on the agenda and that the chair did not have any special powers and was no different than any other board member. However, the city ordinance states explicitly that the chair is the liaison to the Palm Beach School Board while the coordinator is the liaison to school board staff. 

- Staff at times has not complied with requests from the Board.  For example, a consultant’s recommendation on Policies was requested subsequent to a yearlong study. The item was calendared and yet ignored.  It failed to appear on the next meeting’s agenda.

- The role of the Board is brought into question when education plans and goals are presented to the City Commission before being presented to the Board. Under this scenario, is the Board even necessary? According to the ordinance, the Board reports to the Commission, and the Board should be providing reports in Commission meetings. 

- That Board has been asking for financial information, as has the education consultant. The information has not been provided despite the fact that it is in the public domain.

- City staff terminated the 9/11/23 meeting during the middle of public discussions. That is the prerogative of the Board, not the staff. The chair runs the meeting.  The public was not amused. It appears that there is sufficient reason to examine the effectiveness of citizen involvement in Delray via advisory boards.  The basic question is whether they utilize their experience to advise the City Commission or are they simply a listening post for matters that have already been decided?

  • Leadership, decision making and judgment.

  • Planning & organization

  • Budgeting & financial reporting

  • Responsiveness & dispute resolution

  • Interaction with city commission members (following directions, communication, availability).

  • Job knowledge, personnel management and ethics. 

At only 2+ years, Mr. Moore's tenure can actually be considered long by recent Delray Beach City Manager standards.  The instability at the top is considered to have negative consequences in many areas:  high turnover in city staff, overall, disruptions and delays in decision making, and failure to adhere to the city's comprehensive plan, which defines long-term objectives.  Establishing stability in senior leadership in Delray Beach was identified as a key priority in the recent municipal elections.  The favorable review of Terrence Moore appears to present an opportunity for the city to formalize this stability.

Towards that end, Deputy Vice-Mayor, Rob Long, suggested that the commission consider amending Delray’s pension ordinance as it relates to the vesting period for the City Manager and the City Attorney. He stated that benefits like that help Delray Beach retain good talent making the city competitive among other cities.
Mayor Shelly Petrolia stated, “We haven’t had an issue of retaining; we’ve released people from these two positions.”
Long says, regardless of why they left, the majority of this commission believes, "We have a City Manager doing a great job and a City Attorney that’s doing a great job. I would like to do everything we can do to retain them.” 
Vice-Mayor Boylston said, “It’s an extremely competitive market out there in both the private and the public sector.  At my own company we take a proactive approach, we don’t wait until we’re losing people. We address it proactively.”
There was a consensus to schedule a meeting with the city’s pension counsel to explore the issue in relationship to what other municipalities are doing.

We use cookies to improve your experience and to help us understand how you use our site. Please refer to our cookie notice and privacy statement for more information regarding cookies and other third-party tracking that may be enabled.

Friends of Delray

Home | About Us | Stay Informed | Community | Podcast | Support | Privacy Policy | Contact Us

By providing your cell phone or mobile phone number you are consenting to receive texts, including autodialed and automated texts, to that number with campaign notifications from Friends of Delray, Inc. Recurring messages, msg & data rates may apply. Text message subscribers can reply STOP to opt out and reply HELP for Help. SMS data will not be sold, rented, or shared. See privacy policy and terms and conditions HERE. Contributions to Friends of Delray, Inc. are not deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes.

Intuit Mailchimp logo