State Board to ‘reconsider’ Monday’s actions after transparency complaints

The State Board of Education plans to rescind decisions made during a “special board meeting” Monday — and re-do the meeting in an effort to be more transparent.

“We’d rather make sure it’s right and that everybody feels like we did it on the up and up,” said State Board Executive Director Matt Freeman. “Transparency and openness is important to us.”

On Monday, the board gave preliminary approval to language that would crack down on bad teacher evaluation data and tighten Idaho’s dual-credit policy.

Matt Freeman
State Board of Education Executive Director Matt Freeman

Those two decisions will be reconsidered, Freeman said, because board officials are concerned the meeting was not properly publicized and the agenda lacked detail.

“We’ll take a mulligan and do it again so everyone has full and fair disclosure,” Freeman said. “It was a perfect storm of events. I don’t think we did anything wrong (legally), but we’re going to hold another meeting.”

The 10 a.m. Monday meeting was posted on the State Board’s website Friday morning before 10 a.m., just at the required 24-hour notice mark. Typically, board officials alert the media with an email when meeting notices are published. In this case, the email to the media was not sent until Monday at 5:11 a.m., just five hours before the conference call.

Board Chief Communications Officer Blake Youde was on the road in a different city every day last week, and said the late notice to the media was “simply an oversight.”

Board members received their 52-page packet on Saturday because staff was working on last-minute language, Freeman said.

The posted agenda said only that the board would hold a “special board meeting” to discuss its 2017 legislative agenda, with no evidence that action would be taken. Youde said the reason the detail was missing on the agenda was because he simply used a template agenda from a 2015 meeting and changed the date.

“Lesson learned. We will be more specific on the cover page of the agenda,” Freeman said.

Idaho Education News was the first to report about the sparse notification, and the meeting itself. This coverage prompted a meeting between Board President Emma Atchley, a deputy attorney general and board staff. The group decided to re-do Monday’s meeting — possibly on Friday.

“We want this to be beyond reproach,” Freeman said. “The only way for us to deal with it is to say, ‘Fine, we’ll do it again.’”

Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review said on her blog Monday afternoon that the meeting appeared to violate Idaho’s open meetings law. State law allows agencies to hold a “special meeting” with less than 24 hours’ notice, she wrote, but only in an emergency. The open meetings law defines an emergency as “a situation involving injury or damage to persons or property, or immediate financial loss, or the likelihood of such injury, damage or loss.”

But Youde argued the board did not violate open meeting laws, saying a 24-hour notice is all that is required for a special meeting “unless an emergency exists.” Monday’s meeting was deemed a “special board meeting,” he said, because it was held “in addition” to regular board meetings.

“We have a dozen special meetings a year, especially during the legislative sessions,” Youde said.