February 11, 2016

OUR VIEW: Now is the time for USD 231 board to step up

Now is the time for the USD 231 board members to stand up and shine a little light on the budget process.
While other public entities host public budget workshops – including neighboring Spring Hill – USD 231’s budget process is cloaked in secrecy.
Although the district’s Finance Committee was originally formed to help promote transparency — according to minutes obtained through a Kansas Open Records (KORA) request – only one district patron and two elected officials serve on the committee.
Because the committee deliberately does not meet the quorum requirements of the Kansas Open Meetings Act, district officials are not required to publish notice of the meetings, although they will provide the information if asked.
It took this newspaper three separate written requests and $192 to find out the committee’s next meeting date is July 30.
To be fair, the KORA request also included a brief history of the committee including when formed, recent minutes, meeting date and membership roster. We also received the monthly expense report, which the newspaper routinely pays about $40 for – although other public entities supply this at no charge online.
We’ve asked before, what is USD 231’s obsession with control and secrecy?
Why put up the roadblocks to transparency?
But instead of answering – as we again invite board members to do on the editorial page of this newspaper – the district responded by increasing the cost of public records to  district patrons at their July 16 meeting.
Although the tentative one-page agenda available before the meeting did not mention an increase in fees, the increase reared its ugly head on the agenda available to patrons who attended the meeting, and it was rubber-stamped.
School officials should keep in mind they are only the custodians of public records, not the owner. Those records are already paid for once by taxpayers when they are generated.
Apparently the “reasoning” for the higher price was in response to an increased request for public records that was taking up staff time.
Maybe elected officials should ask why patrons are making more requests.
Could it be the recent news that the district’s bond rating had been lowered, or rumors that circulate about teacher layoffs and staff morale?
Really, it shouldn’t matter why patrons are requesting public documents. An informed electorate can be a blessing.
And if the increased requests are “burdensome” publish more information online and keep it up-to-date and archived.
Gardner Edgerton residents are fortunate to have one of the best districts in the state. We have good teachers, good support staff, and our children receive a good education.
So again, we ask: Why the secrecy?
Pat yourself on the back; put the process out for all to witness.
Don’t just talk about transparency while throwing out roadblocks.
Now is the time to stand up and shine.


  1. Judith Rogers says:

    “Gardner Edgerton residents are fortunate to have one of the best districts in the state. We have good teachers, good support staff, and our children receive a good education.”

    How can you make that statement when you don’t have the necessary information to make that determination????

  2. GardnerCommunityMember says:

    Why pay for items with a KORA request when they are already posted on the district’s site for free?


    In my view, this newspaper is wasting the school district’s time. The district’s time is much better spent serving students and teachers than printing reports for a newspaper that can simply retrieve items from the district’s site on their own.

  3. Judith Rogers says:

    The fact that USD 231 School Dist. charged a local entity, regardless of who they are, $192 for information rather than telling them that the information was online for free and referring them tothe proper site TELLS IT ALL.

    Several years ago I asked Gilhaus for information about the number of dropouts for the past 5 year period. He immediately replied that I would have to pay for time and copy charges to receive this information ABOUT MY OWN SCHOOLS! Through my own research I found that Mr. Gilhaus already had that information in his files and had supplied that information to the Kansas Dept. of Education where I got the information on their website with the help of a very helpful state employee. Gilhaus sure as hell didn’t refer me to this site to get the information I was needing and it was available FOR FREE . I had to dig for that information on my own with no help from this arrogant, so called public servant who I am forced to help pay for his over $200,000 a year salary PLUS benefits.

    I asked numerous querstion of Gilhaus on this most school bond and again, he either didn’t answer the questions or gave a bunch of bull hockey avoiding the issue once again and as an example I asked for parcel i.d. numbers of property involved and he gives me legal descriptions which is NOT what I needed. And he sure wouldn’t answer the question of what the amount the citizens would be paying for the interest on that $72 MILLION DEBT plus other costs for that sports education he is providing instead of what our kids really need which is an education to enable our youth to be able to compete and survive in a world economy. And the people have themselves to blame for so much of this crapola because they are supporting and enabling this culture and type of leadership.

    No, citizens are not wasting this school district’s time and money………..the jaybirds who need to be fired and/or put out of office are doing much worse for this citizens and their families in this area and I feel the same about the city of Gardner – THAT IS MY OPINION.

  4. Jerry L Kellogg Sr says:

    GardnerCommunityMember: You pose a valid question with “Why pay for items with a KORA request when they are already posted on the district’s site for free?” However, I doubt the List of Warrants requested by The Gardner News on July 16 was available that day on the district website.

    The List of Warrants provided to the newspaper on July 19 indicates the file was prepared “07/18/12 08:52:56am.” The filename of the List of Warrants, for which you provided a link this morning, suggests to me that the Adobe PDF file (20120725102739680.pdf) was posted to the USD231 website on July 25, 2012. Because I cannot locate the List of Warrants on the website, I sent a request to District Offices this morning asking for the webpage from which the public can access it.

  5. July 16 – Gardner News makes KORA request
    July 19 – USD231 fulfills KORA request and charges Gardner News $192
    July 25 – Adobe PDF file posted on usd231.com website
    July 27 – “GardnerCommunityMember” accuses Gardner News of wasting USD231 time

    One could also ask why did USD231 make information available on their website for free AFTER charging Gardner News?

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