There is no good reason that the USD 231 board of education doesn’t allow members of the public to parse and examine proposed policies before they are adopted. We’re baffled that policy changes are not made public before the board votes and discusses the matter.
Part of a board member’s role is to take input from the public, but the public isn’t involved prior to any decisions the body makes.
During a Feb. 10 meeting, board members updated policy 5700 for a second time. The policy details how school staff will deal with public records.
Judging by the amount of time the district has wasted revising its Kansas Open Records Request policy, you’d think there must be numerous cases in which KORA requests went unpaid. But that simply isn’t the case.
According to district staff, there is only one case of an unpaid request totaling $122, or less than a half hour’s pay for the district attorney spent time and likely, district money reviewing the proposed policy change. By the way, the requestor in the disputed KORA request provided emails substantiating that he only asked for a copy of an existing policy. He did not submit a KORA form.
So the district may be out $122. That’s really not so bad, considering the district’s lawyer is paid twice that amount per hour.
The policy that board members adopted on Feb. 10 does not define what constitutes a “good faith estimate.” It does not state how long the district has to respond with an estimate for cost of requested records. It does not address what manner in which the requestor will be notified of cost nor does the policy address how the patron will be expected to pay. Must they visit the district office? Can a requestor pay online to avoid delay in processing the records?
Updated policy 5700 does not address what happens if the actual cost to produce the record is much higher than the original estimate.
Most significantly, as it was originally written, district superintendent told the board that only repeat requestors would be asked to pay for records. This would have codified a district policy of discrimination. The policy did not define “repeat requestor.” Is that someone who requests two records or a dozen? That would have been up to the administration, an administration which regularly appears to retaliate against all but its most ardent supporters.
To its credit, the board decided to adopt a policy that requires that everyone pay for KORA requests. We don’t like what the board passed, but it was wiser than passing a policy that allowed for blatant discrimination.
The board will reconsider its KORA policies in the near future. We don’t understand why they adopted anything rather than tabling the discussion. Board members also did not receive copies of the policy revisions until they walked into the meeting on Monday night.
Shame on the board members for allowing district employees to hand them a hard copy of the policy and handbook changes just prior to the meeting and voting on it with it.
Employees shouldn’t run the board or the meetings. Elected officials – as representatives of the people – should.