Board touts newsletter over comment

The historic Minden Elementary School serves as offices for the Douglas County School District.

The historic Minden Elementary School serves as offices for the Douglas County School District.

Even as the Douglas County School Board was proposing policy changes to minimize parents’ and public communication, trustees approved a newsletter to increase communication.

At the Sept. 12 board meeting, President Susan Jansen proposed a newsletter be created by the board and distributed to parents and the pupils of the district. She said the newsletter would be a good thing so the community could get to know the board.

“All the board members would be equally involved,” said Jansen. “I was thinking each board member would write a paragraph and we combine it probably focusing more on the positive. I just want it to be a goodwill thing.”

According to State laws the district is obligated to make communication efforts and increase parental involvement.

“There are several different annual reports that are required from the board that goes to the state,” said Kiera Sears, an employee of Joe Gilbert’s law firm, “and so the annual report of accountability that’s prepared in pursuant to 385 A.070 must include information on district communication efforts and parental involvement including without limitations efforts made by the school district and by each school, including Charter schools to increase communication with parents, pupils enrolled in the district and the participation in the educational process, and activities and the involvement of families.”

The Douglas County School Board recognizes the importance of communicating with staff, parents and the community under Bylaw policy 901 which states, “Accordingly, the Board will periodically seek and always welcomes input from staff, parents and community members.”

“I think it is a brilliant idea and I applaud you for wanting to this,” said Virginia Nisse. “It shows goodwill and good faith and I applaud you.”

Yet, some doors for communication are being shut.

“I just wanted to point out that in the same meeting where you have different agenda items to minimize parents’ communication with you, you are also trying to communicate more with them. So maybe open that up both ways,” said Robbe Lehmann.

A proposed section being added to policy No. 901 reads “all communications from the district to the students, their parents and/or guardians, the press and members of the community shall be approved by the board of trustees prior to being distributed.”

In the proposed changes to policy 902, public comment is being limited to the beginning of the meeting and before adjournment.

It also appears that public comment on action items will not be taken prior to the board’s votes.

The board’s newsletter is expected to be a positive form of communication between the board of trustees, students, parents and guardians, and the public.

“It’s a positive thing,” said Trustee Katherine Dickerson. “There has been so much vitriol about the board and what-not and I think it would humanize the board a little bit to be able to communicate and talk about some of the positives and so forth. It is a different entity all together and I get there are other entities out there to communicate with, but this is unique, and I think it would be a great think.”

Trustee David Burns said it could reach those who are unable to attend board meetings.

“You have multiple people that don’t show up here and there is no communication access from the board for individuals or whatever to throw something out there, because if we just say it here then this group will hear it,” he said. “I’m definitely not asking for phone numbers, I just want an email address and you get a lot of garbage mail, so if you don’t like it block it.”

The Record-Courier reached out to the school board trustees on Tuesday with no reply on the details of the newsletter, what it would contain, and when the first one would be distributed.


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