Should school boards be required to answer? We ask because if you contact your local school district with a written request (usually in the form of a Public Information Request) they must respond within 7 days and tell you when they will respond completely (usually within 30 days). If you contact the State Superintendent’s Office (OSPI) with a PiR they must respond within 30 days.
So why is it that school board directors aren’t held to the same standards and requirements?
We would like to share some examples of how one school board actually refuses to answer a simple Yes or No question.
District: Battle Ground
Directors: President Monty Anderson; VP Mavis Nichols; Jim Pegararo; Keen Root and Stephanie McClintock
Example: In February 2017 the Board asked voters to approve a new 4 year levy in the amount of $136.54 million. This represented a 32% ($33 million) increase over the previous 4 year levy. Never did they explain why they needed the 32% increase. The levy passed. Following the passage we went to the Battle Ground School Board and asked them if they had a plan for the use of the extra money and that if they did we wanted a copy of it and if not we wanted them to create one. They did not answer. Two weeks later, at the next Board meeting, the Superintendent read a 3 page letter which didn’t answer the question posed. Two weeks later, at the next Board meeting, we again asked the Board to answer the simple question Yes or No. The refused to answer and would not comment. As we finished we told the Board that unless they said otherwise we had to assume the answer was NO. They said nothing.
Here are the documents from our interchange:
- Letter 1: Yes or No question – BGSD_New_Levy_2017
- Letter 2: Superintendent’s response – LEVY RESPONSE- BOARD MEETING March 27, 2017
- Letter 3: Follow up email after 3rd attempt to get an answer – BGSB Levy Accountability Failure Apr_26_2017
Note as of May 24th we’ve never received a response or comments or anything to our letter of April 26th. Nada.
You might wonder if this was our only example…no…we have multiple others
We did make 3 attempts to get the Board to write a new policy and review 3 other policies. We made 3 public requests over a 6+ month period. Here’s what we asked them to create: BGSD_Board_Policy_Qs_July_2016_resubmitted_Jan92017_3rd time
We have witnessed other people asking questions of the Board with no answers. We can provide more examples but the picture is clear.
So…should school boards be required by statute or RCW or law to answer questions? If it’s required for every other agency associated with education in Washington State we think the answer is quite simple: Yes! When school board positions come open ask the candidates if they support Boards answering questions from the public.
Will you contact your local school board and ask them if they have a policy regarding responding to public questions?