The Pennsylvania School Boards Association says it differs with some of the recommendations a Chester County grand jury gave to the Coatesville Area School District last week.
The association said Tuesday that sweeping votes on meeting agendas are not always bad, antinepotism policies can go too far, and all school board members, not just new ones, should receive in-depth training.
The jury's recommendations to fix systemic problems within the district might create other troubles or not go far enough, according to Stuart Knade, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association's lawyer.
The grand jury made its recommendations to fix problems in the school district, which allowed alleged misconduct and the theft of tens of thousands of dollars in school funds by two former officials, who were arrested last week.
The grand jury's report suggested that its recommendations could prevent similar abuses in districts across the state.
The report was the result of an 18-month investigation into district finances and management by the Chester County District Attorney's Office.
Several county, state, and federal agencies have offered advice to the Coatesville Area School District, and Superintendent Cathy Taschner said she continues to change district policies based on the recommendations.
In one recommendation, the grand jury told the school district it should stop using consent agendas, to increase transparency. School board members' tendency to vote on pages of agenda items in one vote without discussing their reasoning often left residents confused and helped foster mistrust, the jury said.
"We agree a consent agenda can be misused and is certainly not a good way to act upon controversial issues, but that does not mean a consent agenda cannot have an appropriate place in making school board meetings better focused and more efficient," Knade said in an e-mail.
Consent agendas can leave more time for public comment and board discussion of important issues, he said.
The grand jury said Coatesville's previous school board "vacillated between apathy and ignorance" as school officials acted inappropriately. It recommended that new members receive training to deal with complex issues and multimillion-dollar budgets.
The association agreed. But it wants districts to go further and require ongoing training for all board members.
The grand jury also recommended precautions against nepotism. The former superintendent, Richard Como, is accused of hiring unqualified family and friends.
The association warned against excluding qualified job candidates. It said policies should include special procedures to prevent nepotism.
District officials have said they will focus on hiring the most qualified applicants for any job.
The association said it already encourages the other recommendations through training and codes of conduct.
In a letter to parents and community members after the grand jury's report came out Dec. 15, Taschner said the new policies would help the district move forward.
"We can't erase the problems that plagued our district for years," Taschner said, "but we can learn from them and emerge stronger and better."