As covered in the March 11 River Valley School Board story, board member Sara Young proposed an ‘Equity and Understanding Work Group’, composed of teachers, administrators, a community representative and a parent, who would be charged with admirable equity, diversity and inclusion tasks, including proposing district policy.
We should applaud this and applaud the work Young, Board President Kathy Jennings, District Administrator Loren Glasbrenner and others have done to have hard conversations and make equity, diversity and inclusion a priority at every level of the district.
However, because these conversations are hard and because the topic is so important, this work group needs to be formally charged by the school board as soon as possible, with a list of tasks and a charter of members and appointment authority to the work group clearly delineated. The public deserves to be part of these conversations, especially those these future policies will affect most.
According to the Wisconsin Transparency Project, under Wisconsin’s Open Meetings Law, every meeting of a “governmental body” must be held in open session and preceded by adequate notice of the meeting’s business. The term “governmental body” covers virtually any committee, board, or council in government. Closed sessions are allowed in only a few specific instances. Common Open Meetings Law violations include: vague agenda items, improper closed sessions, and claims that a body is a “work group” or something else not subject to the law.
Glasbrenner says: “We are moving ahead with the blessing of the River Valley School Board of Education as a work committee.” But there was no action taken by the school board, and equity, diversity and inclusion issues are too important not to take action on.
School board: Please formally charge the work group, publicly notice its meetings, and include the greater community in these hard discussions so we can all move forward and be better together.