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July 12, 2013

Greater Clark removes personnel reports from public website until after a vote

(Continued)

JEFFERSONVILLE — TRANSPARENCY

Melin said he’s never worked for a district that posted personnel reports publicly before they were voted upon. He said he believed it was an uncommon practice in the state.

Emmert said while the Indiana School Board Association doesn’t conduct surveys or keep track of what boards make public, he echoed Melin’s sentiments.

“I’ve been here since 1978 and this is the first I’ve heard of that,” Emmert said. “This is the first time I’ve ever heard of a board being so open under the Open Door Law.”

He said just as it’s perfectly legal to post those before a meeting, it’s also perfectly legal to stop that practice.

“That’s just a local, discretionary decision,” Emmert said. “And apparently for whatever reason the administration was having administrative difficulties with what was happening and took a legal position that’s valid to not do it anymore.”

Stephen Key, executive director and general counsel for the Hoosier State Press Association, said he thought the board should be commended for making those reports available to begin with and doesn’t think changing the practice is a good move. He said the issues could have been solved by posting the amended report online after the meeting.

“That would have been a very easy and positive way to address the issue,” Key said. “Now what they’ve done is taken a step backward, so now the citizens won’t know what personnel items are coming up until after the meeting, which is too late for them to inform the school board of how they feel about those decisions.”

He said in dealing with decisions about teachers, principals and other personnel, the public tends to get very emotional about them. He said removing the postings denies their ability to address the board before or during the meeting about those decisions.

Melin said while the district wants to maintain a good level of transparency, keeping personnel reports private before a vote solves privacy issues and addendums to the report.

“BoardDocs is a great tool, we want to continue to utilize it, we still want to continue to connect information to those documents...,” Melin said at the meeting. “We want to make sure that there out there in advance for our public. But as it relates to the specific personnel reports, specific personnel items, for all the reasons we have said, we no longer want to continue to do that.”

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