September 20, 2014

School board adopts communication policy

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com
School board members approved a sweeping communication policy on April 1, but members of the public were prohibited from viewing it until after it passed.
The policy was placed online on the district’s website on April 2.
The policy shall be used to “enhance positive and effective internal employee relations and community relations.”
The policy allows political materials to be distributed in the schools, subject to the approval of the superintendent; prohibits memorials for deceased students or staff and outlines how mascots and colors for newly-constructed schools will be determined.
Debbie Hickman, Gardner, asked to see a copy of the 22-page proposal before the meeting, but school officials denied access saying it had yet to pass.
Hickman confronted school board members about the policy during the board meeting. Board policy requires that patrons present cards prior to the meeting if they wish to speak, but Hickman waited until the policy was discussed before raising her hand in the board meeting.
“I requested a copy today,” she told board members. She was told she would receive a call back about her request, but never did.
“I’m not happy with that,” she said.
Board president Ron Ragan told Hickman she could have a copy of the policy after it was passed. He said if citizens have concerns about a policy, the board can re-examine it after it passes.
Board members passed the policy without allowing members of the public to access it or even read it during the meeting.
Following the meeting, Hickman said she has concerns that the policy may make it tougher to get information from the school district.
“As they discussed it, I wanted to be able to follow along,” she said. “I deserved a call back, even if it was to say no. They’ve told me all day because it wasn’t approved I couldn’t have a copy.”
Traditionally, other governing bodies including the Spring Hill School District, the Olathe School District, the cities of Gardner, Edgerton and Spring Hill will post policy proposals online for citizens to read prior to debating or approving policies.

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