The Menomonie School Board introduced a new policy Monday night aimed at educating the public on their rights to information commonly assumed to be privileged.

The Menomonie school district has a policy in which anyone can request to receive open and public records of district activities, a policy which is commonly reviewed and updated internally to allow an open-ended dialogue with community members so they can remain in the know about district activities.

While reviewing the policy, district administrator Joe Zydowsky said he noticed the School Board Policy Request Guide suggests a policy for districts be put in place.

While he said the policy was virtually identical to the existing one, he said introducing the new policy to the board for a vote was a good opportunity to inform the Menomonie community of their rights to open and public documents.

“The policy is really similar to the posted procedure that we have,” Zydowsky said. “But I think it only makes sense to help communicate with our community to make sure everyone understands that we do have access to open records and what the procedure is.”

Board member Chris Freeman agreed with Zydowsky that the introduction of a new policy would be beneficial and adding more explicit language regarding what can and cannot be transferred virtually would help with confusion regarding the process.

“When I looked at other policies on requesting public records, there was always the understanding they were OK to transfer through email,” Freeman said. “But we should always have a disclaimer in the policy that there are some statutes which won’t allow records to be transferred that way because other policies have it and the person ruling over the transferring of the records would have to explain why.”

The new policy regarding access to open records will be reintroduced for a vote at the next school board meeting on Monday, July 8.

Another concern addressed during Monday’s meeting was the substitute teacher shortage the district is experiencing. Teachers typically would have to cover for each other during times when classes were left without instructors. and a retired teacher was brought back solely to help cover open periods during the past school year. Zydowsky said this issue will remain until more subs are brought on board.

“I think there are some more things we can do internally to address this and we’ll investigate those,” Zydowsky said.

“But for now, especially with the concerns we were seeing with so many teachers missing their prep periods to cover for each other and some climate issues where some people were willing to cover for some but not others, I think we had some good justification and we were good at responding to the concerns we saw. But until there are more active substitutes we have our hands tied.”

Possible solutions to the problem brought up by the board included opening up more opportunities for retired teachers to come back part time to help with shortages and promoting more heavily on social media the need for substitute educators.

The last bit of news included in the meeting’s agenda was the school board received a $400 donation from the organization Menomonie Cares for use toward the districts planned Native American Dance Presentation. The event is tentatively planned for Wednesday, Oct. 2, and is included in the year’s budget.

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