Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Getting in front of the news

    The Blaine County School District board of trustees this week labored under the restrictions of state law regarding public employees when two members discussed the departure of district Superintendent Dr. Lonnie Barber just one short month after the beginning of the school year and six months after the board de-cided to extend his contract.
    Compounding the difficulty was the board’s decision not to release the terms of any settlement of Barber’s employment contract that runs until July 1, 2016.
    Deliberations on what trustees charac-terized as an “amicable separation” oc-curred in closed session, and the trustees unanimously approved it in open session as prescribed by law. At nearly $160,000 a year, Barber was the highest paid school superintendent in Idaho.
    Trustees Kathy Baker and Kathryn Graves said the board intends to release the terms of settlement, but is withholding it for an unspecified short time so as not to compromise negotiations to end a multi-million-dollar lawsuit between the district and a construction and engineering com-pany. The obvious and unanswered ques-tion was why the two are related,
    Nonetheless, give the board of trustees, with two new members, credit for getting in front of the news on Barber’s departure instead of putting up a wall of press re-leases and no comments, and relying on a staffer to speak for it. Give Baker and Graves credit for trying to answer tough questions instead of continuing the ways of earlier boards that often refused to talk about tough issues.
    The move toward greater openness this week was a step toward a healthier rela-tionship with the public the board serves.

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