When the Legislature created the state’s Open Meeting Law, it included the following language in the first section:
“The people of the state of Idaho in creating the instruments of government that serve them, do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies so created. Therefore, the legislature finds and declares that it is the policy of this state that the formation of public policy is public business and shall not be conducted in secret.”
Blaine County School District board Chairwoman Ellen Mandeville complied with the spirit of this law when she rejected a local group’s demand for a closed session to gripe about Superintendent GwenCarol Holmes. The group has called for her dismissal “with cause.”
Two of five board members wanted to comply with the group’s demand. However, Mandeville rightly heeded the advice of the district’s lawyers to refuse.
If citizens have gripes about the policies or operations of the district, they should air them in a public meeting of the school board. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.
District policies are the responsibility of the board. Operations that fulfill those policies are the responsibility of the superintendent. This distinction is key to placing responsibility where it should lie.
Closed-door meetings become swamps of public misinformation, especially when one party or another is upset or has a particular agenda. They are closed-door in name only because participants often emerge with entirely different stories about what occurred and what was said.
The school board should do the business of our public schools in public and not behind closed doors. Education is too important to keep it a secret.