(Jim Clark) – I agree with John Eppolito. Not on the subject of the International Baccalaureate program. On that issue I am quite in agreement with the outstanding opinion piece by Incline High School teacher Jeni Cross in last week’s edition of the Bonanza. If you haven’t read it you should find a copy of that issue or check the newspaper’s archives.
What Mr. Eppolito is absolutely correct about is his strong disagreement with the decision of the newly formed “Incline Great Schools Committee” to meet in private. This group was appointed by Washoe County School Superintendent Heath Morrison and initially consists of Area Superintendent Margaret Sanger and former Incline Middle School Principal Harry Haaser. There will also be three parents and two community members who, as of this writing, are still to be named. The purpose of the committee is to “recommend future strategies for comprehensive improvement at Incline’s public schools.”
In an email to the Bonanza Mr. Eppolito said: “Unless the WCSD makes the entire process transparent it is flawed. This new Great Schools Committee will be dominated by District employees and will hold five ‘private’ meetings to decide the future of Incline Schools. . . . (this) will keep our community divided and keep our schools from improving.” Mr. Haaser responded: “these are private meetings because we have a lot of work to do and we don’t have time for disruption from the public.” Democracies are messy and as Churchill said: “. . . the worst form of government . . . except all others.” But if your paycheck is funded by taxpayers you have to play by the rules.
In Nevada “public bodies” are subject to Nevada’s Open Meeting Law which requires, among other things, advance posting of agendas, opportunities for public comment and for all such meetings to be . . . well . . . open. The law’s definition of “public body” includes any “committee, subcommittee or other subsidiary” of a parent board which “expends or disburses . . . tax revenue . . .“. I don’t see how the school district or the Great Schools Committee ducks that definition but maybe their lawyer can figure a way.
Even so it is unlikely that this government-created committee can avoid the prohibitions of the First Amendment of the US Constitution. They have announced that the public and the press will be excluded from committee deliberations. This just drips with hypocrisy because these guys teach our kids civics.
Speaking of tax revenue 34% of our real estate taxes go to support the school district’s operating budget and to pay for school debt. Incline/Crystal Bay’s total assessed valuation produces about 13% of the ad valorem tax money the school district receives from the entire county. Moreover there has been a long history of Incline/Crystal Bay residents generously supporting the local schools with donations. Now our support is rewarded by establishment of a Star Chamber committee that will meet in secret and decide how they are going to spend our tax money.
In 1997 the Nevada Legislature passed an independent Incline School District bill making us totally separate from the Washoe County School District. Regrettably the bill was vetoed by then Governor Bill Miller, a Democrat, who did not want to see an “elitist school district” in Nevada. We hadn’t the votes to override the veto so the issue became history.
If school officials are going to treat Incline/Crystal Bay taxpayers and voters like mindless ATMs maybe we should dust off that old legislation.
(Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates, a vice chair of the Washoe County GOP and a member of the Nevada GOP Central Committee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)