School board lacks checks and balances

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Mike Creeden​​​​​​​, Laurel School Board Trustee
Thursday, September 5, 2019

The Reader’s Viewpoint

At the August 26th Laurel School Board meeting, I witnessed the whittling away of our democracy. I witnessed five elected Board members willingly give away their powers to consolidate it all in one position: the Superintendent. Under Montana Code Annotated 20-3-324, the Board is given 31 powers and duties. This is further strengthened by Administrative Rules of Montana 10.55.701 with multiple other powers and duties.

I will show how the board is moving away from its powers and duties given by law.

On August 12, the board approved the Trustees Financial Statement for fiscal year 2018-19. It contained $2.8 million dollars of revenue and expenses greater than what was approved in the budget meeting the prior August. When asking about the difference between the two, the chairman at the time suppressed all discussion.

Following approving the prior year financial statement, the board focused on the budget for the next year consisting of half a page of numbers and barely explained anything. MCA 20-3-324 (13) cites most of what the board must approve in its budget for the next year. The chairman at the time suppressed all discussion, including attempts to amend. The board failed to follow the law.

If this isn’t enough, the board gives all power for hiring all employees directly to the superintendent.

At the last board meeting, I mentioned multiple times in the meeting a board member needs to be a part of the hiring process for principals, vice-principals, directors (business manager/ clerk, human resources, curriculum, etc.), and high school head coaches. All positions not listed would remain with the superintendent.

The board resoundingly rejected the hiring power reserved to the board by giving the power to the superintendent for all hiring interviews. No board members will be a part of the limited number of positions in the district of important public trust. With the board taking this position, the hiring of all positions in this district are now a rubber-stamp. Your elected officials gave away their powers.

When speaking with a member of the public about the hiring process, she stated the board no longer is in a position of checks and balances. Another member of the public wanted to know who is going to stop the power of the superintendent, especially after the firing of the high school principal two years ago.

I will step up and tell the board what they are doing wrong and how to do it right. Unfortunately, I need more citizens at board meetings to see the whittling away of democracy. The citizens should demand the board take back its powers to control the district and provide checks and balances of the decisions of the superintendent.

Right now, the Laurel School Board lacks the transparency and checks and balances that the public should expect of the government. You should expect more from your elected representatives.

Mike Creeden, Laurel School Board Trustee

Upcoming Events

Monday, December 16, 2019
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