Niles board contemplates agenda availability

School officials say late changes, other reasons delay release

NILES — The Board of Education is contemplating making board agendas available to the public sooner than a few hours before the start of the meeting, but school officials say this is not always possible because of last-minute changes, though many other public bodies make their agendas available days before a meeting.

Board member Christopher Chieffo asked at Thursday’s board meeting if the agenda could be made available sooner so the district’s classified employees, union officials and other members of the public have a chance to review it.

Superintendent Ann Marie Thigpen said the agenda is made available the day of the board meeting and sent to the presidents of both the classified and certified unions. She said any agenda prior to the day of the meeting is “tentative” and being reviewed by board members who get their agendas a few days ahead of time.

Thigpen said sometimes items are added, removed or changed before the board meeting so to send an agenda ahead of time will often not always be the final version.

Many public bodies post drafts of their agendas online, and then update them as needed before meetings. Even drafts of agendas are public documents.

Chieffo said because the agendas are made available only a few hours before the meeting, many people may not have time to make arrangements to attend the meeting with questions or concerns over an item scheduled to be voted upon.

“If it is put out at 3 or 4 p.m. prior to the meeting, some people can’t make arrangements to be here due to their families or other obligations. They may have only an hour or so to look at the agenda ahead of time,” Chieffo said.

Officials noted all meeting minutes are posted on the district’s website after the meetings for public viewing.

Board President Tony Perrone said he has not had any calls about the agendas needing to be made available sooner, but said the matter can be reviewed further.

Thigpen said any resident is welcome to attend the board meetings to ask questions, air concerns and receive an agenda.

Interim Treasurer Craig Yaniglos, who also has served as treasurer in Brookfield, said Brookfield also has its agenda made available the day of the meeting.

Resident Katie Fallo, an administrator in Boardman schools, said many school districts make the agendas available only on the day of the meetings and not ahead of time because of updates on the same day as the meeting.

Resident George Kuriatnyk also said Niles council makes their meeting agendas available ahead of time for the public. He said the board’s agenda being made available to the public sooner would be helpful and might be worth changing.

In other action, the board:

• Accepted a $27,000 National School Lunch Program equipment assistance grant to replace ovens at different school buildings. Officials said the district has secured various grants for other lunch program needs, including $85,000 for a walk-in cooler;

• Approved an agreement with the auditor of state to conduct the financial audit for the district. Yaniglos said because the district has been in fiscal emergency, there is no charge for services;

• Announced various fundraisers are being held to help a student battling leukemia. Niles High School students can purchase a ticket to spend time with a therapy dog 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday in the library;

• Passed a resolution opposing the EdChoice scholarship voucher program that diverts money away from public schools for students to attend private / parochial schools. Thipgpen said the elementary school would lose $4,600 per student and high school and middle school $6,000 per student.