By Matthew C Oskowis
(June 30, 2015)
I received a letter from the Office of the Arizona Attorney General dated June 25, 2015 regarding the Open Meeting Law Complaint against Sedona Oak Creek Unified School District that I had filed against the District back in August 27, 2014. The complaint dealt with the two Special Public Meetings that the SOCUSD governing board held consecutively Monday, June 23, 2014 and Monday, July 14, 2014. These two board meetings were critical in the determination and selection of Scott Keller as the second principal at West Sedona School.
According to the Arizona Attorney General the board violated the Arizona Open Meeting Law at both the June and July 2014 meetings. At the June 23, 2014 Special Public Meeting the board engaged in discussion of policy concerns and received background information from Superintendent Lykins regarding the employment of an additional principal at West Sedona School while in executive session. These discussions should have been done in the public session, although for whatever reason the board choose to not share the information with the public.
At the July 14, 2014 Special Public Meeting the board again violated Arizona Open Meeting Law by engaging in discussions specifically regarding personnel matters involving Mr. Keller and other issues related to the reorganization of West Sedona School in executive session for over an hour. Again, the board chose to not have these discussions in public session.
We can only surmise that the board’s choice to abuse the purpose of the executive session under Open Meeting Law at both meetings was to avert accountability to those who they are truly answerable to, the public. The actual reasons for needing to usurp Lisa Hirsch’s position as sole principal of West Sedona to this day remain elusive as some of the apparent reasons, test scores and teacher retention, appear to have had nothing to do with the leadership of West Sedona School.
Going back to those governing board meetings in June and July 2014 it would appear that Mr. Lykins had deliberately presented additional information behind closed doors, not shared with the public, to cast such a negative light on West Sedona School it drove the governing board to act upon Superintendent Lykins recommendations. But the governing board then failed the public by not revealing the details of those discussions held in executive session in the public session, thus denying the public’s “right-to-know”.
We may never know what Superintendent Lykins said to the governing board back in June and July 2014 behind closed doors, but the result was to create an apparent hostile working environment and divided the community who were perplexed regarding the justification for such an administrative maneuver. Looking back, some are not as perplexed as they believe Superintendent Lykins deliberately positioned Scott Keller as the co-principal to deliberately force Dr. Lisa Hirsch out and replace her with Scott Keller.
A year later, we are back to a one principal at West Sedona School without as much as a cursory review of the initial justifications for the two-principal system and the governing board appears to want the whole unfortunate incident to be swept under the proverbial rug and just move forward. Is this the type of leadership that we want for our school? A governing board that appears to simply take the word of the Superintendent and act upon his recommendations without any follow-up or accountability for the effects of those recommendations good or bad.
Matthew C Oskowis
@ Matthew C Oskowis — So the AG found that the board violated open meeting law. Is there any penalty?
BTW, for the AG to take 10 months to figure this out is totally unacceptable. I have my own open meeting law violation complaint (against the ACC) filed with the AG. I lost patience after two and a half months and sent them an email with the subject heading, “Granma was slow but she was old.” I won’t go into detail but the subsequent response from the person handling my complaint was unreal. Hard to believe the guy finished school but he claims to be a lawyer.