School board lags in releasing public info

School board lags in releasing public info

The Fayette County School Board in January voted 3-to-2 to change its monthly public meeting night from Monday to Tuesday.

Although the school board had been meeting on Monday nights for many years, board members Terri Smith, Janet Smola and Lee Wright

justified the change because having the meetings on Tuesdays would give staff an extra day to turn in the supporting documentation needed for the meetings.

Board members Bob Todd and Marion Key voted against the change to the long-standing meeting schedule.

But extra day or not, the Fayette County School System lags behind most of nearly a dozen school systems in metro Atlanta in terms of the deadline for staff to submit supporting documentation used at board meetings and in posting the agenda and supporting documentation on-line for public review prior to the meeting date.

Listed below are the school systems surveyed, their deadlines for staff to submit supporting documentation for board meetings and the number of business days prior to board meetings that supporting documentation is posted on-line with the meeting agenda.

The following shows the current deadline submission procedure per school system and does not include the last-minute additions to board meetings, and subsequently the accompanying supporting data, that sometimes occurs in any system.

Superintendent John DeCotis in January said the district in the past tried for a Wednesday cutoff for getting supporting documentation in, rather than the current Friday deadline, but the schools could not get all the information in on time.

Chairman Terri Smith, in advocating for a Tuesday meeting day, said in January, “It seems like an extra day would help us get our homework done. Sometimes it’s kind of crazed on Mondays.”

DeCotis at that meeting said he had received feedback from the public and some on the board that they would like to have more time to look over agenda items and the supporting documentation provided on the school system’s website.

Also at the January meeting, board member Marion Key asked about having a one week deadline for submitting supporting documentation. Responding to Key, board member Janet Smola said that was not possible.

Board member Bob Todd floated the idea of having the deadline day pushed back from Friday to Thursday rather than changing the meeting day. Though Key agreed, the idea was dismissed and a 3-2 vote soon followed to move the meeting day to Tuesdays. Smith, Smola and and Lee Wright favored the move while Key and Todd opposed.

“We still don’t get some documents until we get to the board meeting,” Key said before the vote, reiterating the point that both the board and the public need access to information earlier than now exists.

Wright appeared to agree, saying “Lots of times we don’t get (information) for the work sessions until we get here.”