Archive for Thursday, October 5, 2006

School board members unaware of broadcast

Anonymous letter writer criticizes comments made at meeting, seeks resignations

October 5, 2006

Discussions at a Basehor-Linwood school board work session last week -- broadcast without the board's knowledge on the local public access television channel -- have upset some district patrons.

The district normally does not broadcast work sessions. Audio, but not video, from the Sept. 25 work session was aired.

A few days later, local residents began to receive copies of an unsigned letter addressed to the Basehor-Linwood school superintendent and board. The letter called the board unprofessional. It also called for the resignation or recall of board members.

Wednesday morning, area news organizations were sent an unsigned fax urging those organizations to look into the school board's meeting. The fax erroneously said the meeting was an executive session.

When contacted Wednesday morning, Basehor-Linwood school Superintendent Bob Albers emphasized the Sept. 25 meeting -- which was attended by all six board members, several staff members and no members of the public -- was a meeting that was open to the public.

"It was not an executive session," he said. "It was open to the public. It was a work session, where the board was doing some short-range planning. ... It was not intended to be broadcast. Inadvertently, a microphone was left open."

Although the anonymous letter urges district patrons to ask the school for a tape of the meeting, Albers said the district does not have a tape of the meeting.

"We don't have a tape because we weren't broadcasting. ... The Basehor-Linwood school district logo would have been the visual part of it. The audio was whatever that mic was picking up."

Patrick Knorr of Sunflower Broadband said the channel is operated by the school district. Sunflower Broadband did not tape the meeting.

When asked his opinion about why anonymous letters and faxes were being distributed, Albers said, "I'd hate to make a judgment on that. It appears to me that it's action that is to paint the board in a bad light. The motivation behind it? I couldn't speak to that."

He said school officials planned to meet later in the day to discuss the matter and issue a statement.

But by mid-afternoon, Albers said, "Our legal counsel has advised that we not make a statement."

This is not the first time this year that the Basehor-Linwood school district has been embroiled in controversy. In March, school Superintendent Jill Hackett resigned, after coming under fire from board members and district staffers.

Basehor resident Jim Cook, who photographs many school events, was among those who received a copy of the letter. The letter said that a board member called Cook a "character." Cook said it also contained erroneous information about statements he made about the city of Linwood.

A letter to the editor that Cook wrote about the issue appears on page 5A of today's edition of the Sentinel.

Cook said he continues to support the current school board.

The letter also said other local families were topics of discussion during the meeting. Attempts to reach members of at least one of the families were unsuccessful.

Former board member Danny Dearinger, who resigned after Hackett left the district, said he thinks the board made some mistakes during their work session discussions. Dearinger also received a copy of the anonymous letter.

"My opinion is they shouldn't be talking about these subjects," he said. ''... I'm really disappointed that we're not doing a better job on our board."

But board member Dayna Miller, who also was mentioned in the letter, defended the board.

"There was nothing that was spoken about that was inappropriate," she said.

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