Siandhara Bonnet tells a weird story about eight Meade School District teachers camping out on the street in front of their school admin building so they could be in line to apply for an early-retirement bonus of $35,000 each. In this final year of the plan, which incentivizes the teachers with the highest salaries to leave so the district can save money by hiring cheap newbies, only eight teachers could apply for the maximum benefit, and they could apply no earlier than the start of business on June 29.
But on Saturday night, someone apparently called an illegal school board meeting:
Saturday evening, someone in the group called Meade School Board president Dennis Chowen and asked if there was a way for the teachers to turn in their retirement letters Saturday, Chowen said.
He said he spoke with the other board members who all OK’d it so the teachers wouldn’t have to spend Sunday and into Monday outside. All eight teachers in line turned in their retirement letters that evening and will receive the full $35,000 [Siandhara Bonnet, “Meade District Lets Teachers Turn in Paperwork for Early-Retirement Bonus,” Rapid City Journal, 2020.06.28].
Hmm… the Meade County School Board holds its regular meetings on the second Monday of each month. If they wanted to change this early-retirement application date, they either needed to bring it up at their June 8 meeting or give the public 24 hours’ notice and hold an emergency meeting in public. Making a decision to change a board policy by non-public phone calls violates South Dakota open meetings law, subjecting members to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
I suppose there’s no immediate practical harm in this illegal school board action. The eight teachers had their list of who lined up and when, and there’s no indication anyone else planned to show up Monday morning and try to cut in line. But policy is policy, and the law is the law, and the Meade School Board broke the law to change a policy, and that’s never a good precedent.
p.s.: Strangely, the public school teachers who lined up in public to receive these public dollars didn’t want to give their names to the Rapid City Journal, but two of them, Kathy Seymour and Carolyn Schuldies, didn’t mind giving their names to KEVN and KOTA.