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Thursday, October 18, 2007

In Atlanta, Unrest Over Secret School Deals

This is an issue that resurfaces frequency, in which school districts and school board make multi-million land deals behind closed doors. In fact, the folks right here in Columbia, Mo., recently raised sufficient cain to get the school district to reverse a land deal and re-open the proceedings...

Gwinnett school board members have authorized spending about $40 million on land for six new schools in closed door meetings over the last year.

Discussion and votes — since July 2006 — took place during multiple executive sessions, meetings that are closed to the public. A move that some watchdog groups consider unfair to parents and others who want to be involved in the process.

But the practice is nothing new. Board members have voted on land purchases in secret for more than 30 years. They defend their actions as necessary to protect their negotiations so they can get the lowest price.

"We feel we are being extremely good stewards of the public's money," said Carole Boyce, board vice chairwoman. "Why do we need to change it if it works?"

Advocates for open government say the board makes it impossible for the public to know about the land until the deal is complete. That means Gwinnett parents have no say in where their children's schools should be built.

More here.

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