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Our View: Continued miscues by NG school board
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In the grand scheme of things, the most recent misstep by the New Glarus school board regarding public postings of meeting agendas is not a big deal. The problem is that it's part of a continuing trend that does not serve well the residents of the New Glarus school district.

As the Times reported in its April 18 edition, the board provided the public insufficient notice that it planned to vote for a new school board member during its April 15 meeting. The board also did not post publicly the names of the five people who were interviewed and given consideration for the board vacancy.

"When an elected office is to be filled, the public wants to know who the candidates are," said Bob Dreps, an attorney with LaFollete, Godfrey and Kahn in Madison who handles media-related complaints against government bodies.

On April 15, the New Glarus school board interviewed five candidates in public session to fill the position left vacant by former President Chris Bowie, who stepped down April 3 to take an out-of-state job. The board ultimately selected Mary Ann Oemichen to fill the position.

The problem was that the board's agenda - which is posted in a public place, available online and sent to local media - never mentioned that the board intended to take action on filling the position. It also never listed the names of the candidates.

"A notice should inform the public that they plan to take action," Dreps told the Times. "Unless it (the agenda) said they were going to select a replacement, the public would assume that all they were going to do was interview."

Most likely, providing the public with sufficient information on the meeting agenda would not have had an impact on the outcome of the board's decision. For the record, a Times story published April 14 listed the names of the candidates and quoted board member Janet Sherven as saying a vote at the meeting was likely.

This particular agenda oversight wasn't a major problem. But a series of vague agendas for committee meetings in 2006 and 2007 to determine a district referendum course of action was a major problem - because it helped keep a majority of the public in the dark about what was going on. There have been other instances when the district's agendas were lacking in information or too vague. The school district's attorney earlier this year warned the board against continuing the practice.

"The subject matter (in a meeting agenda listing) needs enough specific information to let the public know what you will talk about," Kirk Strang, an attorney with Davis and Kuelthau in Madison, told the board on Jan. 26.

Despite vows by the board at that meeting to improve its practices, it apparently still hasn't learned its lesson.

The board will meet tonight to reorganize and elect new officers. Hopefully, the person elected president of the board makes a commitment to the public to ensure that open meetings laws will be followed by the board in the future. If that person doesn't have a working knowledge of the laws now, hopefully an attempt will be made in the near future to get acquainted with them.

The New Glarus school district's residents deserve better from its board.