Monday, May 28, 2007

Executive Sessions, Part II

I spent some time today looking at the meeting minutes for the Upper Arlington Board of Education to see how often they entered Executive Session. For the 2006-2007 school year, they had these meetings:
  • 8/10/06: Executive session from 7:10pm to 7:35pm (25 mins)
  • 9/15/06: Executive session from 9:05am to 10:25am (1 hr 20 mins)
  • 10/9/06: no executive session
  • 11/13/06: Executive session from 7:20pm to 9:24pm (2 hrs 4 mins)
  • 12/4/06: no executive session
  • 12/11/06: no executive session
  • 1/10/07: Executive session from 7:10pm to 7:45pm (35 mins)
  • 2/12/07: no executive session
  • 3/5/07: Executive session from 8:10pm to 9pm (50 mins)
  • 3/12/07: no executive session
  • 4/9/07: no executive session (draft minutes)
  • 5/7/07: no executive session (draft minutes)

So in twelve Board meetings, the UA Board of Education entered Executive Session five times for a total of approximately five hours. In each case, they selected the specific section of the Ohio Revised Code which applied to their reason for Executive Session. They also post draft versions of their meeting minutes promptly, prior to formal approval by the Board.

Compare that to the record of the Hilliard Board of Education, which nearly always enters Executive Session typically for periods of two hours or more, and lists an Executive Session on the agenda for every single Board meeting, "just in case they need one." As of 5/28/07, the most recent minutes published on the Hilliard Schools website is for the 4/23/07 meeting.

It is the norm for the officials of this school district to keep critical information out of the public eye. I have long contended that the Board was maneuvered into selecting the site for Bradley High School by real estate development interests who own property in Brown Township. The consequence is that we end up with highly questionable business deals, such as the most recent easement agreement with Homewood Homes in which the School Board agreed to install a 16" water line to the schools, costing us taxpayers over $800,000, and letting Homewood tap off of it for free when they build hundreds if not thousands of new houses on their property adjacent to Bradley. When I formally asked for a copy of this agreement, I was told that the verbage of the easement was in the Board resolution published in the minutes. I knew this wasn't true, and pressed the issue, at which point the actual contract was provided to me.

Some good friends of mine recently felt they had to sue the Hilliard school district to get appropriate instructional service for one of their children. I find it very interesting that their settlement agreement with the District restricts these parents from telling anyone the specifics of the settlement. In fact, all they can say is that it was resolved to their satisfaction. Why should this be a big secret?

It's a shame the school district acts this way. At a time when our community is undergoing stress in so many dimensions, one would think that being more open would serve them better.

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