The Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) Board violated state law on May 8 when a quorum of the WAPS board met in a joint session with Bluffview Montessori School Board members without properly notifying members of the public as required by statute.
The Minnesota Open Meeting Law (OML) requires that a government body provide public notice for meetings. A special meeting — one that occurs outside of the normal meeting time and/or location — requires that the government body send notice of the meeting to all who have requested to be notified.
The May 8 meeting was held outside of the WAPS board regular meeting day and location, but special meeting notice was not provided to the Winona Post. A full quorum of the board, including board members Brian Zeller, Ben Baratto, Steve Schild, and Jeanne Nelson attended the meeting.
According to the meeting minutes, the two boards discussed the Bluffview Montessori waiting list for kindergarten, its new financial management company, and the potential for WAPS to switch to a modified school calendar. Bluffview Montessori uses WAPS bus services, and WAPS superintendent Scott Hannon said he hoped all schools would support the plan, according to the meeting minutes.
The two boards also reportedly discussed a former Bluffview Montessori substitute teacher who has been accused of molesting students in another district. "Things were already addressed prior to the situation hitting the newspapers," the meeting minutes read.
An intentional violation of the OML can result in a $300 fine. An elected official who has been found to intentionally violate the law three or more times may be removed from office for a period of time equal to the term the person was serving.