On February 6, an executive session was held prior to the regular public board meeting.
This executive session was referenced in an email by the Superintendent on January 31.
A reminder that we will have an executive session before the meeting. David Marcotte will be with us to discuss the changes in complexity funding and the impact these changes have had on our GCS budget. All principals and the union co-presidents will join us for this session. David will then give an abbreviated presentation during the board meeting.
The public reason for this executive session is:
The governing body named above conducted an Executive Session pursuant to Indiana’s Open Meetings Law, IC-5-14-1.5-6.1 (10) To train school board members with an outside consultant about the performance of their role as public officials.
The "training of School Board members" was attended by the following people outside of the school board:
"Administrators present were Superintendent Dr. Steven Hope, Associate Superintendent Dr. Alan Metcalfe, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Lori Line, Assistant Superintendent Mrs. Tracey Noe, and Chief Finance Officer Dr. Robert Evans. Also attending were GHS Principal Ms. Cathy DeMeyer, GJHS Principal Mrs. Jan Baker, GIS Principal Mr. Moises Trejo, Chamberlain Principal Mr. Todd Williams, Chandler Principal Mrs. Cheryl Williams, Parkside Principal Ms. Julea Ciesielski, Prairie View Principal Mrs. Sonya Imus, Waterford Principal Mrs. Karen Brock, West Goshen Principal Mrs. Aimee Schade, and GEA Co-Presidents, Ms. Jen Yoder and Ms. Melissa Mitchell."
The topic on the calendar listing is "School Finance":
The same presentation, though shortened, was presented in the public meeting. There the minutes recorded are as follows:
Mr. Marcotte works from the Indiana Urban School Association and brought information regarding the Complexity Index. The association works within the most northern area of Indiana. He shared that the Complexity Index has gone down and stated the need to contact legislators for additional monetary support in school funding. Mr. Marcotte explained that there are three main fundings from the state. Foundation, which is the set amount per student received by the state, Special Education and Complexity Index. The Complexity Index is a number which coincides from every Indiana school system with students receiving TANF and SNAP assistance. The information shared shows Goshen Schools is not receiving as much funding as being paid out. Sadly, this is happening in all school districts across the state. In several graphs, it was shared that the least complex school corporations are receiving 2.53% funding vs. the more complex urban areas are only seeing 1.76% in funding and this is the big issue. Explaining more complex schools still receive more money, Mr. Marcotte said we still need to see an equitable amount for every school district. When talking to legislatures, he expressed that we need to request full funding for Special Education and need increased funding towards our English Language Learner grants.
In the article, Are Your Executive Sessions Lawful? It's Time to Bargain!, Indiana School Board Association director of Board Services, Dr. Michael T. Adamson writes:
Keep in mind . . . the reasons for meeting in an executive session are specific, not general. There is little latitude for interpretation. The most often abused executive session criterion is meeting to discuss personnel when, in fact, not all discussions about personnel meet the criteria for an executive session. The discussions that are permissible are those about employee performance evaluations or those to receive information concerning alleged misconduct and to discuss, before determining, employee status. The second most often abused reason is meeting with an outside consultant. Meeting with an outside consultant, like an ISBA staff member, private consultant, and so on, in an executive session is permissible; however, it is only permissible when that person is training the Board on its roles as public officials. [Emphasis mine]
What is official action? “Official action” means to receive information, deliberate, make recommendations, establish policy, make decisions, or take final action. I.C. § 5-14-1.5-2(d). In order to be considered a meeting pursuant to the ODL, a governing body must take “official action.” ...Example 2: A zoning board hears a presentation from an architectural firm regarding the designation of historic preservation areas. No proposals are made nor are votes taken. Yet, the board does take official action because the board is receiving information on public business. (https://www.in.gov/pac/files/PAC-Handbook-2017.pdf, pg. 8)
I have been forced to challenge this meeting and the minutes that we are being asked to approve. Does training board members require that list of people to attend? Does school finance match the public reason and qualify as an exemption to ODL? Do the minutes of the public meeting match the minutes of the private as to what the topic was? Is there any justification for making the same presentation a closed door topic and a public meeting topic? I believe we need open transparency and should use executive sessions only when truly necessary and legal. The topic in this one was not a bad - or even controversial - one and the topic was presented to the public in a like presentation immediately after. However it exemplifies the abuse of the "training board members" exemption to allow school business to be discussed behind closed doors. I believe it is a violation of ODL and will continue to oppose all such future meetings that are not clearly exempt from ODL.