School board refuses to talk with reporters
The Roaring Fork School District Re-1 board Wednesday night cut off all verbal communication with members of the press and will require all reporters to submit their questions via e-mail.Each question from a reporter is “a loaded gun that is aimed at our schools and our kids,” board President Michael Bair said. The board made the decision, he said, to “protect our kids,” and is a response to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent’s story Monday saying the board may have violated Colorado’s Sunshine Laws on March 22 when it allegedly agreed behind closed doors which of three superintendent candidates to hire. During an acrimonious, and at times angry, 30-minute discussion, Superintendent Fred Wall called the newspaper’s story a senseless “opinion piece” that was “harmful” to local schools. All board members present agreed. Board member Susan Hakanson was absent. “I encourage all board members to not share openly with the press,” Bair said. “Ask for all questions to be forwarded to you in writing, and take time with your responses.”Bair’s statement received nods from other board members and Assistant Superintendent Judy Haptonstall, who will become superintendent when Wall retires in June. Wall read a letter from district attorney Patrick B. Mooney, who refuted most of the allegations in the Post Independent story. He railed against the newspaper for “unethical” reporting, because it quoted board members who were responsible for hiring the next superintendent without getting the opinion of the board’s lawyer. But, he said, the fact that the newspaper asked whether the board broke the law “is fine.” It’s the newspaper’s methods he said he was upset about. Post Independent Managing Editor Dale Shrull admitted that a comment from the school board’s legal counsel might have been appropriate, but it’s also up to board members to be familiar with open-meetings laws.Board member Bruce Wampler complained the newspaper prints only bad news about the district. Shrull said that statement is ridiculous.”Not only do we recognize the good news that comes out of the school district, which includes sports, extracurricular activities and feature stories about programs, teachers, and students, our newspaper provides the school district space to have a once-a-month column for its news to be passed along to our readers.”Shrull also says that shutting out the media is irresponsible on the board’s part.”This board has been elected by the voters, and it’s the board’s job to make decisions for a tremendous number of people who have a vested interest in the school district. To have a cooperative working relationship with the media is in the best interest of the parents and the children who attend our schools within the Re-1 school district.”
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