We are receiving communications from many community members indicating that their correspondence to the Jeffco Schools Board of Education is not being addressed. Have you submitted a letter that has received no response?
Email your letter to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following is another very intriguing letter that was shared with us that has received no response, dated February 18, 2014:
February 18, 2014
Board of Education
Jefferson County School District
1829 Denver West Drive #27
Golden, Colorado 80401
Via Electronic Mail at email@example.com
Dear Members of the Board of Education of Jefferson County:
I am writing in regards to the addition this morning of three new items to the agenda for the Special Meeting of the Board of Education scheduled to take place this evening at 5:30 pm. I confirmed the agenda as of yesterday, and sometime today the following new items were added: agenda item 2.01, agenda item 2.04 and agenda item 2.05. All three of these items were added less than 24 hours prior to the scheduled Special Meeting. Additionally, items 2.04 and 2.05 appear to be completely unrelated to the original purpose of the Special Meeting, which was to discuss a transition plan for the superintendent position and interview firms to conduct a superintendent replacement search.
The Board of Education is bound not only by its own policies, but also by Colorado state law.
District policy and several state statutes provide that a special meeting is conducted for a particular purpose, hence the term “special meeting.” The only business that may be conducted at a special meeting is “that [business] stated in the notice of said meeting.” C.R.S. 22-32-108(4); see also District Policy BE.
Furthermore, both district policy and state law provide that notice, at a minimum, must be provided 24 hours in advance. C.R.S. 24-6-402(2)(c) specifically provides as follows:
Any meetings at which the adoption of any proposed policy, position, resolution, rule, regulation, or formal action occurs or at which a majority or quorum of the body is in attendance, or is expected to be in attendance, shall be held only after full and timely notice to the public. In addition to any other means of full and timely notice, a local public body shall be deemed to have given full and timely notice if the notice of the meeting is posted in a designated public place within the boundaries of the local public body no less than twenty-four hours prior to the holding of the meeting. The public place or places for posting such notice shall be designated annually at the local public body’s first regular meeting of each calendar year. The posting shall include specific agenda information where possible. [emphasis added]
According to the revised Agenda for the February 18 Special Meeting, there are at least three formal actions that the Board is considering taking: Agenda item 2.01 (approving the superintendent’s Early Release Agreement), agenda item 2.02 (adoption of a superintendent transition plan) and agenda item 2.03 (authorization of staff to negotiate a search firm agreement). Therefore, this meeting is subject to the requirements of 2 C.R.S. 24-6-402(2)(c), and the public should be provided no less than twenty-four hours prior notice of such meeting.
In any event, as a “special meeting” the February 18, 2014 meeting of the Board of Education is subject to C.R.S. 22-32-108(4), which provides as follows: “At any special meeting, no business other than that stated in the notice of said meeting shall be transacted, unless all members are present and shall consent to consider and transact other business.” And it is also subject to District Policy BE, which also provides as follows:
The chief of staff for the superintendent and board shall be responsible for giving a written notice of any special meeting to each Board member at least 72 hours in advance of the meeting if mailed and 24 hours in advance if hand-delivered personally or emailed to the member. The notice must contain time, place, and purpose of the meeting. . .
No business other than that stated in the notice of the meeting shall be transacted unless all members are present and agree to consider and transact other business. [emphasis added]
I note that on the BoardDocs website, the February 18, 2014 Special Meeting Agenda, item 2.05 specifically bases the addition of matters unrelated to the business intended to be conducted at the Special Meeting on “the canceling of the February 8 budget study session.”
However, that meeting was canceled ten days ago, so there is no reason that items 2.04 or 2.05 could not have been included on the original Special Meeting agenda, of which I received notice on February 12 (six days ago).
Failure to provide full and timely notice to the public of the topics to be discussed at any public meeting of the Board of Education, regardless of the ability to provide public comment, contributes to a lack of transparency on the part of the Board. There may be many citizens of JeffCo who are interested in the topic of budget development (many thousands if the results of the recent JeffCo budget survey are any indicator), who have not made plans to attend tonight’s Special Meeting because the matters added this morning weren’t previously indicated on the agenda.
I can understand that the Board of Education is meeting this evening, and it seems efficient to go ahead and add these topics since you will all be meeting together already. Nevertheless, the appearance of impropriety, and the frequency with which last minute agenda items are added to virtually every meeting of the new Board of Education, continues to undermine the Board’s integrity and credibility. Additionally, Ms. Williams has indicated that she wanted to add to tonight’s meeting a discussion regarding something related to union contract issues – something completely unrelated to any other topic being discussed tonight. At least some members of the public are watching the actions of the Board of Education closely, and scrutinizing highly every decision made by the members of the Board of Education – including even these seemingly inconsequential decisions.
The Board of Education is not the board of directors of a private corporation. Colorado state laws and Jefferson County district and board policies make clear that, with very limited exceptions, everything the Board of Education does is subject to public scrutiny. See, e.g., District Policy KDB (providing that the Board is a public servant and its meetings are matters of 3 public information). In order for this to be anything more than aspirational, the Board must provide the public with advance notice on the business to be discussed at meetings of the Board. The Colorado legislature has made clear that the “Sunshine Law” is not aspirational. See e.g. C.R.S. 24-6-402(9) (providing that a court can issue injunctions to enforce the provisions of the “Sunshine Law” and shall award costs and reasonable attorney fees to a prevailing citizen).
As a tax-payer of Jefferson County and a parent of several JeffCo students, I strongly urge you to consider carefully how your actions are perceived, and to follow strictly not only the requirements of Colorado state laws and district policies, but also the spirit with which they were intended – namely open and honest communication with the community regarding the Board of Education’s agenda and actions. In this case, that might mean inconveniencing yourselves to schedule another meeting in order that you timely provide notice to the public regarding the addition of several topics to tonight’s agenda unrelated to the original purpose of the meeting (and as stated as late as this morning on the Board’s website).
Wendy R. McCord