Update: At one point in the interview I ask Arnold if the board had met in groups of three’s outside the public meetings. She told me that no such meetings took place. I mentioned that the Wichita Eagle had implied that she did. Arnold told me that I would have to ask the Eagle, so I looked into it, and as it turns out, Arnold did say that they met in groups of threes. This is important because the law requires any meetings with four or more members to be held in the public. This is an excerpt from a statement that Arnold read at the board table on February 13, 2012:
“At each major juncture, we discussed and gained consensus from the Board, which ultimately provided direction to the superintendent. We were frequently apprised during board meetings, as well as 3×3’s with the superintendent and staff. The opportunity to meet individually with follow-up questions and suggestions was made available to each of us. We have been provided with extensive information that included maps, reports, charts and comparison data. Finally, we had the opportunity to be a part of the focus group meetings and the community meetings and input or suggestions were sought from us. I solidly believe that we have vetted the facts at hand.”
Original story: Wichita School Board Chairwoman Betty Arnold was present at the Choices Fair this evening, held at Century II. Bill Anderson, Michelle Pawlak and Mike Shatz, all with Occupy Wichita, approached Arnold with questions pertaining to the board’s recent vote to close five schools against the will of the parents.
Three days ago, Occupy Wichita assisted parents in performing a mic-check on the school board in opposition to the closures.
While I disagree with the board’s decision and with Arnold’s authoritarian stance on freedom of speech in board meetings, I commend the Chairwoman for her willingness to speak freely with Occupy Wichita, especially after we mic-checked her meeting. Very few elected officials would speak to protesters on camera, being peppered with questions from more than one person, without any advanced notice.
As I mention to Arnold in the video, if she had shown us the same respect in the board meetings as she did in this interview, we would not have mic-checked the board.
Video by Michelle Pawlak