School Officials respond to PAC

By Joseph Slacian 

Officials from Wabash City Schools and MSD of Wabash County believe their boards acted appropriately in conducting executive sessions to discuss a feasibility study with representatives from the Community Foundation of Wabash County.

The boards met with CF officials several times under the auspices of discussing school consolidation.

Public Access Counselor Luke Britt, in response to an informal inquiry made by The Paper of Wabash County, believes that discussing the Studies for Advancement was not justifiable under the consolidation portion of the Indiana Open Door Law.
“I have reviewed the study and school consolidation is only a very small portion of the text, and only tangentially referenced,” he wrote. “It is much more a resource efficiency guide.”

However, MSD Superintendent Mike Keaffaber and Wabash City Schools Superintendent Jason Callahan believe the executive sessions were allowable.

“Although school consolidation may be only ‘tangentially referenced’ in the study, the study was a perfectly acceptable topic for any discussion of school consolidation, even though its primary focus may not have been on school consolidation,” Keaffaber wrote in a letter to The Paper. “As long as the study had any reasonable bearing on the issue of school consolidation, it was a proper topic of discussion for the board in executive session.
Callahan wrote that nowhere in Britt’s opinion “does it state that Wabash City Schools was in violation of the Open Door Law.”

“Mr. Britt states that the discussion of feasibility studies unrelated to consolidation would not be covered under Indiana Code 5-14-1.5-6.1(b)(2)(e); however, he makes this ‘informal opinion’ without any consultation of Wabash City Schools,” Callahan continued. “Without speaking to Wabash City Schools or the other districts, it is impossible for Mr. Britt to analyze the situation completely; thus, he clarifies that his letter is an ‘informal opinion.’”

Both Keaffaber and Callahan, in their letters, noted that three public meetings on the study took place, and that the study was available at various points online.

“So it cannot be claimed that the (a) public was denied or impaired access to a meeting where the study was discussed by the board, or (b) the public’s knowledge or understanding of the study was impeded in any manner,” Keaffaber wrote.
Callahan noted, “”These open and well publicized meetings seem to eliminate any notion of impeding the public’s input into our public business.”

“Although Phase 1 was focused on individual studies, this study was intended to answer the question of whether we needed to continue a conversation that included consolidation,” Callahan continued. “The use of the studies’ name ‘Studies for Advancement’ on the announcement was our attempt to provide greater transparency of the purpose of the consolidation conversation. Our executive sessions were focused on how these studies impacted our need to consider consolidation and what strategy we should employ to address consolidation.”

Posted on 2018 Jan 09