Judge rules against newspaper

Ossola says School Board did not violate open meetings law

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— A judge ruled Wednesday that the Steamboat Springs School Board did not violate the Colorado Open Meetings Law during a Jan. 8 executive session meeting.

After reviewing a transcript of the closed-door discussion, visiting Senior Judge Thomas Ossola denied the Steamboat Pilot & Today's request to review the tapes, saying the board's meeting "was not improper" and that "no violation of the Colorado Open Meetings Law or the Colorado Open Records Law occurred."

Ossola did not make a decision about whether the School Board entered the discussion for a valid topic, as is required by state law. Attorneys for the newspaper argued it did not.

Ossola also ordered the newspaper to pay for the School Board's attorney fees.

"I'm glad the way it turned out," said School Board member John DeVincentis, who attended Friday's hearing in Routt County District Court. "I think people second-guessed us, and I'm glad (the judge) was able to see we're just trying to be honest and open with the public."

Pilot & Today Editor Scott Stanford said the newspaper is considering how or if it wants to proceed with the case.

"Obviously we're disappointed in the judge's ruling," Stanford said. "Foremost, we're concerned he didn't address the issue of how the topic of the secret session was announced.

"We're in the process of reviewing the ruling and deciding what our options are. We still believe this is an important case that is critical to how local government bodies conduct their business."

The lawsuit, which was filed in January, centers around anonymous surveys filled out by district teachers and support staff about their administrators. Superintendent Donna Howell said she told administrators the survey results would remain confidential, but School Board members later demanded access to the surveys and ordered Howell to turn them in. Board members contend they have legal right to all school files, and they say they were the ones who ordered the anonymous surveys.

Howell was given a directive in December to release the survey results to the board, which she denied. The board then met in executive session Jan. 8 to discuss accessing the survey results.

The board's stated reason for entering into a secret discussion was for a personnel matter related to "access to information."

-To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234 or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

dodobird 7 years, 1 month ago

Thank you Judge!!! Now can the Pilot "get off their high horse " and let the school district spend their monies where they need to go---to the kids, and not lawyers!

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citizenjohnq 7 years, 1 month ago

Has anyone stopped to consider why the paper is so 'concerned' about this situation? If you'll recall, these surveys came out in early December- I should know; I'm a district employee, and, yes, I did fill one out; and, no, it didn't matter to me if my opinion was made 'public' regarding my supervisor, or administrator- and a couple weeks later, after the 'secret session', Scott Stanford's wife announced her resignation from the position of Director of Curriculum and Instruction- siting job security as a reason for her resignation. (Incidentally, Ms. Stanford was not in any way one of my administrators- not directly, and my survey, and its answers, did not reflect on her position or office.) Now, let's put our brains to it and see if we can't answer my question: Is it possible that 'the newspaper' (aka- Scott Stanford, editor) is so 'concerned' about these 'secret session' tapes because there may be discussion on them regarding Ms. Stanford and her employment with the district? If this is true, is it then ethical for 'the newspaper' to go any further with this issue? Regardless of the 'reason' for this suit, The Pilot & Today should stick to its job of OBJECTIVELY reporting news, so the school district can fry bigger fish- like what they're going to do with all the students and staff at Soda Creek Elementary while they're building is being updated.

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citizenjohnq 7 years, 1 month ago

I apologize; I got my dates mixed up. The survey came to us in late January/ early February and the school board's 'secret session' was Feb 8th, Kelly Stanford's resignation was effective Feb 23rd. Other than the dates- the timeline of events still holds course.

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citizenjohnq 7 years, 1 month ago

OK- I'm just gonna sit down after this one. I obviously don't have my dates lined up. Terribly sorry about not being perfect. School board's 'secret session' was Jan 8th not Feb. Stanford's resignation was effective Feb 23rd- she went to work for TIC. Survey did come in Dec. Ok, I'm done.

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dundalk 7 years, 1 month ago

Thought provoking comments from JohnQ. Perhaps some over at the Pilot Today have misplaced their crowns and septors and are living in a dillusional haze which clouds their judgment and the capability of being fair and objective. Of course that would be absurd: The Today paper being fair and unbalanced. HA HA oops, I mean "balanced".

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citizenjohnq 7 years, 1 month ago

A response, and apology, to Scott Stanford's response is posted on that link as well.

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twoducksrock 7 years, 1 month ago

Have we missed perhaps the reason what perhaps prompted the survey? Generally school districts don't even have surveys when administration is doing a satisfactory job. In watching the random and haphazard moving and elimination of teachers over the past couple of years. We should probably watch how we're discouraging good and great teachers because of administrative myopia. It's really hurting the kids and the community. Steamboat needs to wake up as to how many quality teachers have been lost due to an inept administration. Because the Pilot was pushing for disclosure of the information, - perhaps the community needs to wonder why the school district is so defensive about the opinion of the school personnel about, for example, the Principal of the high school. What goes on behind closed doors - may be symptomatic of poor leadership which uses threats to keep teachers and staff quiet. How else are we to know how management works at the school? We should perhaps now find another way to find out why the kids are not progressing and motivated as they should be.

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Scott Stanford 7 years, 1 month ago

All:

My response to the questions raised by CitzenJohnQ is posted here:

http://www2.steamboatpilot.com/weblogs/from-the-editor/2007/mar/15/answering-johnq/

Scott Stanford Editor, Steamboat Pilot & Today (970) 871-4221/(970) 291-9278 editor@steamboatpilot.com

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linus 7 years, 1 month ago

Ditto, dodobird! Sorry editor, but you are really out to lunch on this one. The judge had the sense to see what a stupid nitpicky lawsuit it was and I'm so glad the Pilot has to pay the school district's lawyer fees. This is the best school board we've had in years - I've seen firsthand that they're a bunch of fine people working hard (for no pay) to do what's best for the schools and kids.

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