Business as usual

Karen Gray

Hopes that new faces, new leadership and a new year would bring a new attitude to the Clark County Board of School Trustees have been swiftly squashed. January 2009 proved to be more of the same ole', same ole' for the CCSD board. 

On January 8, the board, including its three new board members, approved $2.2 million in architecture fees for the New Elementary School Prototype project. As is so regularly done at CCSD, not one trustee dared to review the contracts prior to voting—not even the new members.

That's not to say that trustees did not have some questions and misgivings. But the board still approved the expenditure without reviewing one contract. To date, the board has approved $8.8 million to architects for the project and no one has looked at a contract—so much for checks and balances.

But blindly spending taxpayers' money was not all the board was up to. It also misled the public, telling people speaking to the board that Nevada's Open Meeting Law (OML) prohibits trustees from conversing with the public regarding non-agenda hearing items. In actuality, that is not true, Moreover, it was precisely this kind of public deception by the CCSD board that led the 1991 Legislature to specifically clarify state law so that there was no doubt that boards could engage in public comment on non-agenda items.

In recent years, CCSD trustees have often spouted nonsense about the OML preventing responses to the public on non-agenda hearings. That tradition of misleading rhetoric continued on January 22, by the newly appointed board president, Terri Janison.

Speakers who raised issues not on the agenda were told by Janison that the OML prevented trustees from speaking to them. One such speaker was told she would have to come back in March in order to be heard. Seeking clarification on how that would work, the speaker was hurried off the podium by Janison, who stated the OML prohibited their conversation.

The Clark County School District knows better than anyone that the OML does not prohibit trustees from conversing with the public—and that, in fact, state law was clarified to encourage such communication. Unfortunately, the public doesn't know this and continues to place its trust in the district's misnamed TRUSTEES.

That this new board is continuing this legacy of deception reveals real leadership problems within the Clark County School District. Board members either have little regard for the law and their obligation to their electors—or, at best, they are terminally naïve and easily dominated by the staff they are supposed to lead.