President Brannan declares Task Force meetings closed to the public

Published September 30, 2015 by justicewg

No TalkingThe school board created a group called the Facilities Task Force back in May of this year. According to the board, the purpose of the group is:

“This group will be charged with exploring all options on how the district should move forward with our school buildings and facilities. They will serve as an advisory and oversight team during a comprehensive, multiyear process.”

That’s sort of a vague, open goal for the group. How are they studying the facilities – are they only processing information provided to them by the board? Who are they advising – the board, or are they choosing and advising an architect who will design a new building? Without a better explanation from the board about what this group will be doing, they are a mystery group. I wanted to know more, so I asked permission to sit outside the group at a meeting and see what they are doing.

I first found out there was a preliminary meeting being held on August 27th. I asked President Brannan for permission to attend, and she seemed to be OK with it.

There’s no public announcement of the meeting, it’s not meant to be a large public meeting; that being said I’m sure they would welcome you in if you went tonight.  – Debbie Brannan

One problem with getting Brannan’s OK was that she was telling me about the meeting on the same evening that the meeting was occurring. I didn’t get full permission to attend until 7:30 PM, probably after the meeting ended.

That was bad, but there were more meetings to be held, it sounded like there would be many meetings. But then I found out that the second meeting had been held, and despite multiple requests to attend the second meeting, I wasn’t told about it until it was over.

I asked Brannan why I wasn’t allowed to attend the meeting. Somehow, between the first meeting at which I was allowed, and the second, the meeting became closed to the public.

The Facilities Task Force is not a Board committee, and therefore, its meetings are not open to the general public – Debbie Brannan

There was no reference to laws that supported her choice to keep meetings closed. It apparently is closed “because I said so”.

The board is more closed to the public at every turn

This new decision to close the FTF meetings is in keeping with this school board’s secrecy and failure to involve parents in important decision making meetings. The board had many special meetings this year, many times more than regular business meetings, often for long hours with big agendas. The records show that no parents or press have attended any of these meetings.

Keeping the FTF meetings private really makes no sense. The board could have hired an architectural firm, there are many that focus on upfront planning services for facilities review and building design. They didn’t hire a firm, possibly because we all know that consultants can be counted on to make the choices the people who hire them want to see.

Instead, they empaneled a Task Force that was comprised of community members, none with school facility experience. I think the idea was that this was going to be a group of “regular people”, who could have an open conversation about the school facilities.

But now the meetings are closed. We have no idea what is happening behind locked doors. How is this any different than the paid consultants?

Sorry, Task Force Members. You now will become “the mystery group that nobody can know about”. All your work is going to be discounted by the people who have to pass high taxes to build the big new school buildings you will recommend. Sort of a waste of time, isn’t it?

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