BY ANDY TAYLOR
COFFEYVILLE — The USD 445 Board of Education on Wednesday issued a formal response to the Coffeyville City Commission concerning commissioners’ comments made at the Aug. 28 city commission meeting regarding the USD 445 bond issue.
At the Aug. 28 city commission meeting, commissioners allowed the public forum to become a debate about the bond issue after hearing from Brian Nagle, a USD 445 faculty member and also a member of the USD 445 bond issue committee (see story on page A1).
In its response to the city commission, the school board took issue with the way the city commission allowed the public forum to become a public hearing and how Nagle was pressed for details that were beyond his scope.
As a result of the extended public forum, city commissioners gave their thoughts about the bond issue after admitting that they did not have the facts and information to make an educated opinion. Additionally, one commissioner reportedly said it was the commission’s duty to carry citizens’ opinions in regard to taxation, including taxes that are imposed by other entities.
“The city commission stepped right on our authority as an elected board,” said board president Darrel Harbaugh during Wednesday’s special meeting. “I think anytime another governmental entity interjects itself in another entity’s business, I would believe it to be unethical.
“Calmer heads will prevail, but I’m not necessary happy with our city commission.”
Dr. Craig Correll, USD 445 superintendent, said he spent all day Wednesday dealing with the aftermath of Tuesday’s city commission meeting. He personally met with interim city manager Mike Shook and several city commissioners, during which time Correll spoke about the purpose of the public forum.
Correll said he felt it unfair how the commission took Nagle’s three-minute alloted time during the public forum and made it into 20 minutes of pointed questions about other aspects of education, such as the residency of school personnel.
Correll also said the lack of time before the Sept. 6 bond election prevents the school board for making a presentation at another city commission meeting. “We really have no rebuttal time before the next city commission meeting, because the next commission meeting will be after the bond election,” Correll said.
Correll also told the board that he had, in previous presentations to the city commission and during Wednesday’s discussion with city leaders, made information available concerning the bond issue to the city commission. He also said he was willing to answer any question from city commissioners about the school bond issue. As of Wednesday, none of the five city commissioners had approached him with questions about the bond issue, other than at two city commission meetings in June and July.
All seven members of the board concurred by consensus to allow the open letter to be delivered to the city commissioners.
The board’s response is printed in its entirety below.
The USD 445 Board of Education is compelled to respond to comments made by members of the Coffeyville City Commission at their meeting on August 28th. The City Commission allowed an open forum presentation by Mr. Brian Nagle to digress into a debate concerning the upcoming school bond. Mr. Nagle approached the commission to present facts of the school bond. By City Commission policy any person who speaks during the open forum portion of their meeting is allotted 3 minutes. While allowing Mr. Nagle his three minutes, they interrupted him with questions and comments in opposition to the school bond. Mr. Nagle remained calm, answered their questions, and repeatedly stated that his intent was to clarify facts and encourage people to vote.
The USD 445 Board of Education appreciates Mr. Nagle’s attempt to address the City Commission as a taxpayer, voter, and resident of our town. However, we do find fault with the commissioners who interjected their own personal opinions into USD 445 Board decisions. USD 445 Board members have never discussed or publicly commented on City Commission decisions and we expect them to not interfere in USD 445 Board decisions. Commissioner Doane stated, “We are elected by the citizens to look at the whole picture. And there is a whole lot more that goes into this than just your perspective. And that’s our job to look at that.” The members of the USD 445 Board of Education were duly elected by the community to direct the school district in all issues concerning our public schools, not the city commissioners. For the commission to insert itself directly into school board decisions is not within their purview.
The city and school district have worked well together for the benefit of our community many times over the years. We have been partners in building Community Elementary, supporting Veterans’ Memorial Stadium, providing workspace for the city employees while city hall was under reconstruction to name a few examples. Previously, the city opted not to allow the voters to decide to extend the education sales tax to reduce the property tax in funding the school bond. We have worked well together and supported one another in the past. This action by the commission has strained a once extremely positive relationship between the city and school district. We hope this relationship may be restored in the future.