On the heels of the visit to Panola County last week by State Superintendent of Education Dr. Hank Bounds, the North Panola School District Board of Trustees met Monday night.
Most of the meeting was held behind closed doors in executive session. The reason given was “personnel issues.”
We often hear “personnel issues” as the reason for elected officials to conduct business in executive session. We often suspect that “personnel issues” is a shroud that allows a range of other sensitive issues to be discussed behind closed doors.
Granted discussion of certain personnel matters are legitimate and legal reasons for going behind closed doors to conduct the public’s business.
“Transaction of business and discussions regarding employment or job performance of a person in a specific position or termination of an employee holding a specific position,” is a one of those legitimate and legal reasons for a public body to meet behind closed doors, according to Mississippi’s Open Meetings law.
And that’s what North Panola trustees and a member of The Excellence Group did Monday night. The trouble is that we had to ask around the next day to learn that.
How much better to offer a more specific explanation than to throw up “personnel issues” as the door is being shut?
How much better to say, “We’re going to discuss an issue that might result in an employee’s termination.”
For this newspaper and for parents and other patrons who attend North Panola’s school board meetings, “personnel issues” has become the buzz word that means, “We’re kicking you out of the meeting so we can have the room to ourselves.”
At the Feb. 28 meeting with Dr. Bounds many of those North Panola parents and patrons voiced concern that the school board has adopted a “circle-the-wagons” attitude towards them. A small step towards establishing more trust among their constituency would be to exercise more consideration when executive sessions are warranted.
Don’t tell us that you are closing the doors to discuss “personnel issues.”