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Darin King

July 5, 2015
Reinbeck Courier

Dear Editor,

I read a recent Letter to the Editor penned by our GR educator, Mr. Bruce Bailey. His letter was dated on May 24th and was about the May 6th Gladbrook-Reinbeck School Board meeting. Unfortunately, I have only found Mr. Bailey's Letter to the Editor in the Reinbeck Courier.

I too attended the May 6th meeting along with more than 30 other district citizens. I would like to offer an alternate view of the May 6th meeting. Numerous times, discussions by the board members were held between the board members and with the Superintendent that were not audible to all in the audience. This gave the appearance, whether intentional or not, of private discussions amongst the GR board members.

The State of Iowa has very strict open meetings laws that govern a meeting such as all GR School Board meetings. The open meetings laws are meant to foster openness, transparency, accountability and trust by those who are elected to make decisions on our behalf. In fact, the GR School Board also has written board policies that conform to the State of Iowa open meetings laws which demonstrate the GR School Board's commitment to the Iowa open meetings laws and to its district patrons. Simply holding a meeting in a public place meets only one of the requirements under the Iowa open meetings laws, as I am sure all board members are aware of, having attended courses from the Iowa Association of School Boards.

During the May 6th meeting, a few in the audience began politely asking to have conversations spoken so that all in the audience were able to understand the communications of the board. Their simple request was to, "Speak louder." Frustration grew as some in the audience continued to remind the board to, "Speak louder." Later in the meeting, frustration boiled over when a request from someone in the audience to "Speak louder" was responded to by an outburst by a single GR School Board member while he repeated his previous statement.

Contrary to Mr. Bailey's Letter to the Editor in the Reinbeck Courier, I believe most of the GR School Board members and the Superintendent also took a different view of the May 6th meeting. This was evident at the May 21st meeting, as the board took additional actions such as reorganizing their seating so that rather than facing one another, they were facing the public. A microphone was provided for the board members to speak and a projector was used to display additional info about the board meeting topics. Sadly, the recent June meetings have reverted to the old ways. Sometimes habits are hard to break and these habits need to be broken.

At the conclusion of the May 21st meeting I approached the board members and the Superintendent to thank them for taking the initial steps to improve the communications, and both the board president and the Superintendent asked if these measures were an improvement. I believe this demonstrates proof that it wasn't only the belief of the many audience members that there was a communications problem at the May 6th meeting and that the board was working to improve.

Please remember that with the back drop of the board and community committee meetings over the past 18 months, many citizens of the district were told, "It is not the board's fault that the district's citizens hadn't attended previous board meetings." So if citizens come to the meetings and are unable to hear those discussions, what are they to do? In Mr. Bailey's letter, it stated that it was apparent that those causing the disruption were there for the sole purpose of disrupting the process. I ask, at what gain? It is the GR School Board's responsibility to effectively communicate, just as it's an educators responsibility to communicate with a student. The board meetings must operate in a transparent and open environment, and to foster an atmosphere of trust. I'm sure the board is striving to meet these goals. Let's take the next step and work together to improve the communications so that everyone is informed.

Thank you,

Darin King

Gladbrook, Iowa



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