Castleford School District trustees want to change how school officials are required to publish legal notices of elections and budget hearings.
Leaders of the southern Idaho school district would like the option to publish legal notices on their website, instead of in a local newspaper.
Superintendent Lyle Bayley and school board chairman Todd Wells said the change would benefit other districts, so they are seeking support from the Idaho School Boards Association. Castleford will present a resolution to ISBA members during their annual convention next month.
“The resolution came about to save costs,” Bayley said. “And a lot of people use electronic media to communicate any more.”
Castleford officials sought the change after the former publisher of the Buhl Herald died earlier this year and the paper was temporarily shuttered. That forced them to seek another paper to publish legal notices for budget hearings, elections, bids and financial emergencies.
The Buhl paper has since reopened, the Twin Falls Times-News reported, but Castleford officials will present their proposal to see how it is received.
“We were looking at other options for official posting of notices and (other) newspapers’ cost were significantly higher — 10 to 15 times higher,” Wells said. “We were looking out for costs for small districts.”
The ISBA convention kicks off Nov. 11 in Coeur d’Alene. If members endorse the resolution, the ISBA will lobby for it during the 2016 session. In order for the change to go into effect, lawmakers would need to amend existing laws governing the publication of legal notices.
Wells supports giving districts an “either or” option, to publish legal notices in their local paper or on their website.
Castleford’s resolution also points to other transparency laws that requires districts to publish information on their websites. But a recent Idaho Education News investigation found that most school districts and charters — including Castleford — do not comply with state transparency laws.
Accessed Monday, Castleford’s website includes apparent links to district expenditures and teacher master agreements. When those links are clicked, the website simply reloads and does not display that information.
Said Bayley, who began his tenure as Castleford’s superintendent and principal this year: “Those things are supposed to be on there and we will work on getting those up.”
Wells characterized the missing data as “an oversight” and “not intentional.”
Wells also said he wanted to see how lawmakers reacted to Ed News’ transparency laws story, in order to see how a proposal on legal notices might be received.
“We have to consider what may come out of the Legislature as far as a response to, maybe, not all districts being fully compliant in reporting the things that already are in statute,” Wells said. “We just have to see what the tone is.”
Castleford officials asked community members about their idea before trustees approved it. They said they did not hear concerns from local residents who may lack Internet access and would be unable to use websites to obtain legal notices.
The full text of Castelford’s resolution states:
ISBA RESOLUTION NO. 1
PUBLIC NOTICE ALTERNATIVES
WHEREAS, Idaho Code requires school districts to post budget hearings, annual meetings, bid notices, property disposal, and financial emergency declarations in the local newspaper; and
WHEREAS, Idaho Code requires financial items such as expenditures, budgets, and master agreements to be posted regularly to district websites for transparency; and
WHEREAS, publication costs for newspaper legal notices have increased; and
WHEREAS, more individuals are seeking information and transparency from district websites; and
WHEREAS, some local newspapers in Idaho are closing;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Idaho School Boards Association will work with the Idaho Legislature to amend Idaho Code to allow website posting alternatives to traditional newspaper public notice postings.
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
Districts continue to strive for transparency and fiscal responsibility. With the rise of information available on the internet, districts have the opportunity to reach more patrons and reduce expenses by having alternatives to traditional newspaper legal postings.
Submitted by Castleford School District No. 417
When ISBA members convene in November they are expected to consider several other proposals, including a Boise district resolution aimed at replacing the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests, also known as the ISAT test.
Other resolutions include:
- An additional resolution from Castleford to require write-in school board candidates to obtain signatures from local constituents before seeking office, as is required for candidates who appear on ballots by name.
- A resolution from Lewiston to allow school district leaders to seek a local-option sales tax to repay school bonds for new construction and school facilities.
- A resolution from Moscow and Cottonwood to allow trustees to discuss property during executive sessions closed to the public.
- A Pocatello/Chubbuck district resolution designed to “hold at bay” any expansion of parental rights legislation as outlined in the Legislature’s new parental rights law.
- A Weiser resolution designed to add a separate “extended days” contract for certificated employees such as speech pathologists and counselors.