Op/Ed

Editorial: Lack of transparency in LaRose decision is disappointing

ANGELO LYNN

In not renewing the at-will contract for girls’ soccer Coach Connie LaRose, the Mount Abe Union High School administration acted within its boundaries. An at-will contract means that it’s at the discretion of the administration to renew it each year. Technically, there is no fault implied, by either party, for not renewing the contract.

And it’s within the school board’s discretion to support the administration in that decision.

But the school board has erred egregiously by refusing to publicly explain its reasoning, and by snubbing Coach LaRose’s request to have a public airing of the board’s decision, which is within her rights to ask.

Furthermore, in a story on Page 1A in today’s Addison Independent, the board almost surely erred following an hour-long secret session on Sept. 27 to discuss LaRose’s firing when it issued a statement supporting the administration’s decision. That statement was agreed on during that executive session — a violation, certainly, of the intent of the open meetings law, if not the exact letter of the law.

But that’s precisely where the action of this board is so disturbing. 

Knowing that they are treading on the very fine edge of the law, they nonetheless conducted their sensitive business out of the public view, and then discount the violation by suggesting their action — approving a board statement — was not technically a “formal action.” 

Playing semantics, when their intent to hide their discussion is obvious, is cowardly, at best, and certainly a disservice to the community.

The preferred approach, of course, is to reveal to their public the reasoning for not renewing LaRose’s contract and to allow public comment of that decision. The board does not have to bow to public opinion, but it should explain their decision. That’s particularly true in this case because LaRose has asked for such a public hearing and explanation. 

The question the school community should ask is plain: If LaRose is not hesitant to hear the reasoning for her dismissal aired in public, then why is the school board refusing to share it?

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In writing this story, reporter Andy Kirkaldy went to lengths to explain the pertinent sections of the state’s open meeting law that applies to this case; gave the school board multiple opportunities to respond; and then sought outside expertise to examine the case and provide their opinions on whether the board handled the proceedings appropriately. Their comments don’t reflect favorably on the board’s actions.

As said up front, we do not take exception to the administration’s decision not to renew LaRose’s contract. It may or may not be a wise decision, but it is theirs to make. Yet, how they have treated LaRose is unworthy of the long years of service she has contributed to the district, and how they are trying to hide their reasoning leaves citizens imagining such conduct may be emblematic of how they handle other decisions. Both undermine the board’s integrity.

The community deserves better. A public airing of the board’s reasoning would be a step in the right direction. 

Angelo Lynn

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