School board members feel they leak info
By Scott Bellile
New London School Board members question the board’s ability to keep confidential information secret.
The seven board members shared their concerns anonymously in their annual evaluation of the board. The board then discussed the survey’s results at a special meeting held March 27.
“Question No. 6 was the first one that really kind of raised a red flag, and that question is: ‘Board members maintain confidentiality of privileged information.’ Any concerns, any thoughts on that?” Board President Kim Schroeder asked.
Board members were silent for 30 seconds as they processed the question and read over the printouts containing the seven respondents’ comments.
Bill Schmidt was the first to speak: “I guess I’m trying to get my head wrapped around what that really means. Individually we don’t think we do such a good job; as a whole, we do?”
Board member Virginia Schlais said she thinks it is the other way around.
“There’s just a sense, I think, we trust ourselves, but we don’t know if we trust each other. Is that it? I don’t know,” Schlais said.
“I think that nicely sums it up,” board member John Michels said.
A couple board members indicated the confidentiality concerns may have stemmed from a particular incident, but nobody indicated what that incident was.
“Some movement forward has to take place somewhere along the line here that says, ‘OK, we get it, some things have gone on, some things have been talked about perhaps for whatever reason, but it’s gotta stop,’” Michels said.
Discussing what the next step would be, board member Chris Martinson suggested the board receive training in open meetings law.
The board will further discuss what action to take to improve confidentiality at its April 10 meeting. The board meets at 6 p.m. at the district office, 901 West Washington St. The meetings are open to the public.
Schroeder shared board members’ responses to unrelated survey questions. One question asked if the board conducts meetings orderly and efficiently. She said respondents showed “a little bit of concern that maybe we’re too orderly and a little too sterile.”
“I do think a lot of that is because we do ask questions [to administration before the meetings] and we know some of the answers ahead of time,” which may cut down on the discussions and debates that take place in front of the public, Schroeder said.
Respondents also suggested the board better recognize the successes of individuals and groups in the district, and the board should regularly review board policies to make sure they’re up to date and relevant.
Schroeder mentioned the board’s positives and accomplishments that respondents highlighted, among them: bringing diverse backgrounds and points of view to the table; hiring the next district administrator; wisely using referendum dollars to improve security, roofing and literacy programs; creating a great environment for students within a tight budget; and carrying out the district’s mission of “Success for All Students.”
Circling back to the point of maintaining confidentiality, Schroeder added, “That being said, we have work to do.”