City school board should review open meetings laws

Published 5:00 am Monday, April 28, 2008

The status of an after-school program at Mamie Martin Elementaryis being reviewed by the Brookhaven School Trustees after a groupof parents came before the board Tuesday night in hopes of savingthe program.

However, the board only met with two of the parents and did sobehind closed doors. The board took no action during the executivesession except to say they would review the situation.

The after-school program has been running for some 20 years,offering after- school tutoring and child care. Children arecharged a fee to participate in the program.

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The board made the decision to terminate the program during aclosed executive session in early March. Parents were informed ofthe decision by letter two weeks ago. Like the parents, The DAILYLEADER learned of the decision after the fact.

While the original decision by the board may be unpopular withsome parents, with what we know about it, it appears to be based onsound reasoning and may be a reflection of the tight economictimes. The board however appears to be more sensitive to theparents concerns and is looking further into the issue.

While the board reviews the decision to close the program, wehope they too will review their policies for meeting behind closeddoors in executive session.

Mississippi’s open meetings laws are fairly specific on whatsituations can and cannot be held in private. A closed-door meetingwith just two parents regarding a community-wide program does notfall under the guidelines.

When public boards allow their meetings to be handled behindclosed doors, the public trust is never the winner. Historically,the city school board meetings have been generally open to thepublic. Unfortunately with this issue, it was not.