Brainerd School Board: Board moves to keep committee meetings open
The Brainerd School Board is reversing a previous decision to potentially close its committee meetings to the public. The board Monday night held the second reading of district policy 213--School Board Committees. The board held the first reading...
The Brainerd School Board is reversing a previous decision to potentially close its committee meetings to the public.
The board Monday night held the second reading of district policy 213-School Board Committees. The board held the first reading of the revision at its May 8 meeting.
The version of the policy at the first reading, under section IV, paragraph A, stated the newly revised committees would not be subject to Minnesota open meeting law, outlined in state statute chapter 13D.
"The open meeting law does not apply to committees that are advisory only and do not have decision-making authority," the policy stated.
After the first reading, superintendent Laine Larson said the district received feedback about the decision to close committee meetings to the public. The board's intent was for the committee meetings to remain open, she said, so the paragraph stating the committee meetings could be closed was removed before the second reading.
"Consistent with the district's past practice, standing committee meetings will have published notifications and the public is invited to attend," the policy states.
The current policy does not outline how many members will sit on each committee, but the board has typically appointed three members to each committee. Despite this structure, members would frequently attend meetings of committees they were not members of, creating a quorum of the school board. This created confusion during a January special board meeting, resulting in district staff looking into the current committee policy.
The revised policy stipulates no more than two board members will be appointed to each committee. Both policies note the committees are advisory and are designed to make recommendations and provide updates to the full school board.
Board member Tom Haglin defended the board's practice of board members attending meetings of committees they were not members of. Those meetings were effective, transparent and open to the public, he said, so it's unfortunate the board has to change the policy.
"It's unfortunate that, because of a few (meetings), that we're having to fix something that isn't broken," Haglin said. "We're going to go into a less effective, less efficient method of governing."
If every board member can't attend each committee meeting, the board members won't be fully informed about issues, Haglin said. If two board members are attending committee meetings, the remaining board members will be left in the dark, he said.
"This is something that has worked so very, very well for I don't know how many years," Haglin said.
Haglin would like to bring this issue to state legislators, he said, because something doesn't seem right. The board will become less effective because of the law, he said.
"Very few of us ever missed one of those committee meetings, which allowed us to be much more well-informed," Haglin said. "So that when a recommendation came to the board, we were well-equipped."
It worked well to have the full board meet during committee meetings and discuss board business, chair Bob Nystrom said. It's disappointing to have to change to comply with the law, he said.
"It's disappointing that we have to go to this," Nystrom said. "But, to be within the law is something we have to do."
Having all board members attend committee meetings is an improper way to conduct business under the open meeting law, Mark Anfinson previously said. Anfinson is a Twin Cities attorney specializing in open meeting law.
"If a quorum is there and there's public business occurring, they've got to treat it as a meeting of the full school board," Anfinson said.
When it comes to the open meeting law, what a meeting is called isn't relevant, Anfinson said. What's important is two factors: whether a quorum of board members is present and whether those members are discussing public business, he said. If both those factors are met, the body is subject to the open meeting law and becomes a special meeting of the full school board.
"You can't get away with calling it a committee meeting if a quorum of the full board is there," Anfinson said. "It doesn't work that way."
Currently, the board has six standing committees: facilities; curriculum and student activities; finance and insurance; legislative; long-range planning; and personnel. Under the revision, the personnel committee becomes the personnel and negotiations committee, but the rest of the titles remain the same.
The board near the end of the meeting went into closed session for preliminary consideration of allegations against someone subject to the board's authority, as permitted by state statute 13D.05, subdivision 2(b). The session lasted for about an hour and a half.
In other business, the board:
Approved the resignations of the following certified staff members: Paula Barrer, adult basic education math teacher at the Brainerd Learning Center, resignation effective June 5; Danielle Bartz, math teacher at Forestview Middle School, resignation effective June 5; Bonnie Dick, second-grade teacher at Baxter Elementary School, resignation effective June 5; Michael Huesmann, special education teacher at Brainerd High School, resignation effective June 5; and Lisa Worden, third-grade AGATE teacher at Lowell Elementary School, resignation effective June 7.
Approved donations for the month of June totaling $1,500.
Approved the cancellation of a previously approved Brainerd High School field trip request for an a cappella choir tour March 10-17, 2018, to Los Angeles.
Approved a field trip request for a BHS a cappella choir tour March 13-19, 2018, to Puerto Rico. The trip will take place partly during spring break. Students will miss one day of school because of the trip, according to the request.
Adopted a resolution to approve an administrative recommendation to grant tenure to the following staff members: Bridget Corbett, Melissa Duffney, Maria Ewald, Aline Gilb, Erin Hubbard, Carlie Jelacie, Jennifer Knutson, Jeffrey Lee, Renee Leonard, Whitney Luke, Magnus Nelson, Heather Neumann, Miranda Pape, Danielle Patrick, Cassanda Scearcy-Jillson, Rachel Schumer, Kim Thiesse and Daniel Wilhelm.
Approved membership for 2017-18 in the Minnesota Rural Education Association at a cost of $2,500. The base fee is $1,100, with the remaining $1,400 coming from a legislative fee. According to the organization's website, MREA "serves school districts throughout the state through advocacy, professional development and networking." The cost of $2,500 is the same as the previous year.
Approved the 2017-18 employee handbook.