Behind the plaque -- UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Behind the plaque -- UPDATE

Posted By on Thu, Feb 5, 2009 at 8:10 AM

Another legislative session, another batch of harmless resolutions honoring this basketball team, that fish, this president, etc. Non-controversial? Hardly.

A blog reader who tirelessly pursues the high-handed actions of school superintendents and school boards statewide spots, for example, this resolution honoring Camden Fairview School Superintendent Jerry Guess as the 2008 Arkansas school superintendent of the year.

Fine fellow, Dr. Guess, no doubt. But our reader also directs us to the Fairview School District's website and information there about School Board meetings.

In accordance with the Arkansas Open Meeting Law, the Board has the privilege of meeting privately in a closed meeting to discuss matters related to personnel, student discipline, security, land acquisition or to consult with legal counsel. However, no action may be taken at an executive session.

Now it's possible that this section predates Guess' arrival at Fairview. But since he's in his 12th year, it's about time he got around to changing it. Because the district's stated policy is ILLEGAL. The School Board MAY NOT meet in private about security or land acquisition or to consult with legal counsel. It may meet in private on a student's appeal of a disciplinary decision ONLY if closure is requested by a parent or guardian. The relevant section of the law:

Executive sessions will be permitted only for the purpose of considering employment, appointment, promotion, demotion, disciplining,or resignation of any public officer or employee.

Class dismissed. I suspect Fairview's policy on secrecy is not unique, though others may not have gone so far as to put it in writing. Laws? Small-town school supts. are the law.

UPDATE: Welcome to the wonderful world of blogging. Near instant results. I talked this afternoon with Superintendent Guess and I have to say, he DOES sound like a swell fellow. The website has been changed. He was surprised to learn of the boilerplate language about school board meetings, which he says are held in Fairview only for personnel and requested private student disciplinary hearings, as the law provides. He said he'd investigated and found that the district's website developer had drawn the words from a website for school website development. It is based in Texas, where more exceptions apparently are allowed for executive sessions. He apologized for the mistake and said the district always endeavored to do things right. Case closed, sounds like.


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