…and gets contract amidst violation of open-meetings law.
In my Friday report on Tom Oster’s Bollen-esque privatization of his public duty to help his employer, the Sioux Valley School District in Volga, identify good candidates for his replacement, I noted that Oster and fellow GOP crony Rick Melmer’s consulting firm, Dakota Educational Consulting, has also landed a contract to conduct Spearfish’s superintendent search.
In a special meeting on December 3, the Spearfish school board accepted the superintendent-search proposal from Dakota Educational Consulting’s John Pedersen, another former superintendent now cashing in on his connections. The contract is for $8,500, 42% more than the $6,000 Dakota Educational Consulting is charging Sioux Valley.
Maybe I’m missing something. Volga is a nice little town, and it’s close to Brookings, which is the Spearfish of East River. But I’ve lived in Spearfish and worked in their school district. It’s a heck of a town with a heck of a good school system. The idea that it will be 42% harder to recruit a superintendent to Spearfish than to Volga boggles me.
Also raising my eyebrows is the fact that, according to the minutes, the Spearfish school board appears to have discussed contracting with Dakota Educational Consulting in executive session:
A SPECIAL MEETING OF THE SCHOOL BOARD OF SPEARFISH SCHOOL DISTRICT 40-2, LAWRENCE COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA, WAS HELD AT THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE BUILDING ON THE 3RD DAY OF DECEMBER 2015. THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS WERE PRESENT: President Jeff Sleep, Vice President Amy Cermak, Nancy Hall, Mitch Hopewell and Mistie Caldwell. Others present were: Craig Crosswait, Steve Morford, Dan Olson, Nick Gottlob, Randall Royer, John Pederson and Don Hague.
All motions were passed by unanimous vote unless stated otherwise.
President Sleep called the meeting to order at 4:05 p.m.
President Sleep led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Motion was made by Cermak, seconded by Hall and carried to approve the agenda.
Proposals from superintendent search firms were presented.
Motion was made by Hall, seconded by Hopewell and carried to move into executive session. 1-￼25-2(1) Discussing the qualifications, competence, performance, character or fitness of any￼public officer or employee or prospective public officer or employee. 5:07 p.m.
The Board came out of executive session the special meeting resumed. 6:00 p.m.
Based on discussion of qualifications of the superintendent position relative to expertise, resources and reputation of the presenters, motion was made by Cermak, seconded by Hopewell and carried to approve the proposal from John Pederson with DEC for $8,500 plus other costs as stated.
Motion was made by Caldwell, seconded by Hall and carried to adjourn the meeting. 6:01 p.m. [Spearfish school board, minutes, special meeting, 2015.12.03]
The statutory clause the board cites to justify closing the doors for executive session reads as follows:
Executive or closed meetings may be held for the sole purposes of: (1) Discussing the qualifications, competence, performance, character or fitness of any public officer or employee or prospective public officer or employee. The term “employee” does not include any independent contractor;… [SDCL 1-25-2(1)].
If the board wanted to talk about all the good qualities of outgoing superintendent Dave Peters that they want to find in their next exec, then they could invoke SDCL1-25-2(1) to have a closed meeting. But it appears they went into executive session to discuss the merits of independent contractors, which SDCL 1-25-2(1) explicitly says they cannot do. (Note to the board: always read the full statutory clause.) Paging the Open Meetings Commission….