Trustees Must Learn Closed Meetings Law

From the IDAHO PRESS TRIBUNE, June 5, 2005 – “Our View”

If there’s anything that raises the ire of the public and the press it’s when tax funded agencies meet in secret.

Sometimes, closed meetings – also known as executive sessions – are appropriate and legal.

But there are occasions when a public board or comission meets illegally, and unless challenged, will keep doing it.

Depending on what point of view you look from, Thursday’s school board meeting in Homedale was illegal.


Because the school board chairman said she didn’t want the press there and when asked by the reporter: “Why do I have to leave when they can stay?” she had no choice but to eject everyone.

And even though the press and the majority of the people in the meeting room were excluded, the meeting was not an executive session.


Because it was a secret meeting of the school board and the school administrators with hand-selected representatives (about five people) from two points of view.

A legal executive session is designed to keep all of the public from hearing what is being discussed – if the topic falls within the defined parameters.

In the case of the Homedale meeting, the supporters heard what the opponents had to say and the opponents heard what the supporters said. But none of the rest of the public got to hear it.

The irony of the whole situation is that the coach – the focus of the meetings – has wanted the while issue aired in an open forum.

It should have been discussed openly in a hearing scheduled and noticed properly.

The school board had already made its decision to end the coach’s contract. There was no decision to be made. In fact, the school board chairperson rightfully said no decision would be made. After a public hearing, the school board could have deliberated again – in executive session – and returned to an open session and voted to reverse its decision.

Legally, the school board can’t disclose the reasons for why a person is terminated. That falls under personnel rules.

In Homedale, coach and teacher Randy Potter has become the focus on an ongoing tug-of-war in the small community. Potter hasn’t always been the person under attack. It’s been others in the past four or so years.

His teaching status is protected as long as he meets the standards of being a good teacher. But coaches are not protected in the same way, and if the school board and administration don’t like how a football coach stands on the field, they can drop his contract.

And if patrons aren’t happy with a school board, then the patrons need to find new board members. In Homedale’s case, voters recently elected a new board member and ousted the chairperson.

Maybe that change will be enough for the school board to re-evaluate the situation later this summer. Stranger things have happened.

If nothing else, the board – under it’s new superintendent – needs to understand the laws when it comes to executive sessions and follow them.

Editorial from the Idaho Press Tribune

Not an IDOG member yet?