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Hays USD 489 fiscal year full of staff changes, executive sessions

7/20/2014

By JUDY SHERARD

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Personnel changes -- retirements, terminations, teacher cuts, hirings -- were plentiful in Hays USD 489 during the past fiscal year that ended June 30.

All of those changes were approved by the board of education as personnel transactions on the consent agenda at each meeting.

At Monday's work session, the board discussed changing that practice.

"The board needs to approve any hires and fires," Board Attorney Bill Jeter said.

"On the personnel transactions, I know that we have the power, but I think actually our board policy reflects that we've given that power over to the superintendent to hire and fire employees and act without us," Board Member Greg Schwartz said.

The board has participated in closed-door discussions of non-elected personnel throughout the year with the superintendent and others.

During the fiscal year that ended June 30, the BOE logged a total of 24 hours and 38 minutes in executive session, often citing non-elected personnel as justification.

That doesn't include the all-day executive session spent interviewing interim superintendent candidates.

In 2012-13, the board -- which was comprised of different members -- tallied 3.5 hours in executive session. A total of 6 hours, 57 minutes was spent in executive session in 2011-12.

Executive sessions are addressed under the Kansas Open Meetings Act that applies to state and local public agencies, those related to the government, according to Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt's website.

Discussions in executive session are allowed under certain justifications, but not required.

Justifications or explanation of what is to be discussed in executive session include personnel matters relating to non-elected personnel; attorney-client relationship; employer-employee negotiations; and security measures.

The non-elected personnel discussion in executive session is meant to protect an individual's privacy, according to the website.

The board hires the superintendent and "at the end of the day, he's the one who's going to control the daily operations," Schwartz said.

Jeter said if Katt makes a decision the board disagrees with, the board is the final authority.

When asked his opinion of the board approving personnel transactions, Katt said, "it would be much easier if I could make all those decisions, but I just want to make sure that we can do that and not get ourselves in trouble."

"When we vote on it (personnel transactions), it ensures that we're all on the same page," Board Member Sarah Rankin said. "If we turn that completely over to you ... I can see where that might cause problems."

Board consensus was to continue approving personnel transactions in the consent agenda.