Community members question school district transparency

Published 10:07 am Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A handful of community members questioned the transparency and trust of Albert Lea school officials Monday evening in a public forum in front of the Albert Lea School Board.

Several people spoke before the board at its meeting and claimed district officials were not forthcoming when they asked for Superintendent Mike Funk’s contract within the last few weeks.

Mike Funk

Mike Funk

Parent Sonjia Hill said she twice requested Funk’s contract before she received a watermarked copy last week.

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Angie Hanson questioned why the board entered into executive session at its Jan. 19 meeting.

Albert Lea Citizens Concerned for Education, a Facebook page where district policies are discussed, has questioned over the last couple months on its Facebook page whether it was legal for the School Board to enter into a closed session at the meeting for a self-evaluation.

Chairman Mark Ciota said the board’s decision to enter into a closed session was based on legal advice received from its attorney, Kevin Rupp.

Ciota asked the members of the public why they did not call him with information requests and apologized for the district’s response to the salary requests, saying the district has not received many salary requests before.

Community member Tom Sorenson said transparency and trust is an issue with the School Board and administration, and he urged the board to listen to dissenting opinions.

Funk said the district is transparent.

“To say that we are nottransparent is inaccurate,” he said.

He said it is interesting that he has received more requests for his salary in the last few weeks than he has received in his last 11 years as superintendent in two school districts.

In other news, the board approved a union contract with the Albert Lea Education Association. The agreement means 287 teachers represented by the union will receive a retroactive 3 percent raise for the 2015-16 school year and a 2.5 percent raise for the 2016-17 school year.

The contract includes step advancements for both years of the contract based on years of experience, pay increases for teachers who attain more college credits and language that provides more flexibility in teachers’ daily schedules to possibly increase educational opportunities for students.

Ciota thanked district officials and the union for their effort to complete the negotiation.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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