February 12, 2016

District views patrons as piggy banks with duct tape over their mouths

The USD 231 board of education clearly views its patrons as giant piggy banks with duct tape across their mouths. They certainly don’t treat them as living, breathing people or as constituents. We’re all simply robots who should not be seen or heard.
Their treatment of one patron during a school board meeting on April 1 was abominable. It may have been April Fool’s Day, but that disgusting display was no joke.
School board members approved changes to Policy Section 2000 (Community) during the meeting, and prior to the event, one patron, Debbie Hickman of Gardner, requested an advance copy of the proposal.
The request was denied, because it hadn’t yet been approved. It’s Washington politics brought home to roost in the school board’s dirty nest. Recall Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s call to pass the federal healthcare bill so citizens could find out what’s in it.
The district’s use of the same is  patently offensive and completely ridiculous. Visit the city of Gardner’s website right now. Or go to Edgerton’s website and check out a council agenda. Visit the county website or Spring Hill School District’s website. On each and every site, you can find proposed policy changes prior to the meetings in which they will be discussed.
That’s not simply a political nod to transparency. That’s also good business. The more eyes you have on a proposal, the more likely you are to get it right.
But that’s not the belief of the current USD 231 administration. They think the people who pay the bills are far too simple minded to even have a look at proposed policies. Instead, they say teachers and staff are given a preview of proposed policies.
But we don’t even know if that is true. There is absolutely zero transparency within the school district.
Make an open records request of virtually any document, and first, the district will demand that a specific district-created application be filled out. The requirement is breaking the law.
The Kansas Open Records Act simply requires that information requesters provide their name, address and the specific record being requested.
“A public agency may require a written request for inspection of public records but shall not otherwise require a request to be made in any particular form,” the state statute clearly reads.
Requests to the district are frequently met with this response: “Please complete the KORA request form attached…”
This blatant oversight of Kansas law could be overlooked if the district made honest attempts at transparency. However, that’s simply not the case.
Even worse, the president of the school board was rude to Hickman in a public meeting.
The district prides itself on its character program, which seeks to develop good character in its students.
Maybe it’s time the board and administration take a lesson.
And it’s time for the district’s patrons to rip the duct tape off their mouths. They deserve to be heard, whether the administration likes it or not.


  1. Sollicitus Civis says:

    Here is what they do in DeSoto when approving new policy.

    We work hard to follow a three step process.

    “1. Present information to the board in a written report. These reports are part of the Board packet and is public.
    2. The following month, the board is invited to discuss the topic (at its regular meeting) and ask additional questions.
    3. The third month, the board is invited to take action… or in some cases, the board delays action because it seeks additional input/information.

    Obviously, there may be some unforeseen circumstances where the process is shortened… or the board may request additional feedback from stakeholders, thus stretching the process.

    We encourage patrons to communicate concerns with the district or with board members. We have a portion of each board meeting dedicated to “Continuous Improvement.” This an opportunity for board members to bring up any number of topics and or concerns and can ask the district gather more information. Again, Continuous Improvement is on each monthly agenda.”

    In USD 231 this is how it goes;

    1. Superintendent writes new policy.
    2. Patrons cannot see it, comment on it or review it even if it is requested by the patrons.
    3. It is unanimously approved by the board, posted online and THEN patrons can review it.

    What is wrong with this picture? Good government? I don’t think so.

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