Public business must be performed in public. Taxpayers have a right to know how and why their money is spent. Our job is to report accurately and hold government officials accountable.
Last week, during the Huntsville School Board’s regular meeting, members were given two options concurring the CTE building in Huntsville: either decrease the size by eliminating one classroom and two restrooms, saving the taxpayers $175,000, or constructing the building that had been presented to the board at a prior meeting. The original plans are set to cost $500,000 more than what the district had budgeted. Those costs can be absorbed by the district through its building fund.
The board considered both options, leaving the decision up to Huntsville High School Principal Roxanne Enix, who was not able to attend the school board meeting.
After the Monday night meeting, Huntsville School Board President Danny Thomas called Enix, informing her that Huntsville School District Superintendent Dennis Fisher would meet with her Tuesday morning for her recommendation as to whether or not to decrease the size of the CTE building.
Thomas then texted the members of the board informing them that he had spoken to Enix and “told her that whatever decision that she made with Mr. Fisher in the morning on the CTE plans even if the originals were the best fit for our plan long-term that the board was behind that decision. Just letting you guys know. She explained ideas that she had in place for that space (the room that the board had considered eliminating) and there is stated laws and qualifications that we actually didn’t know about so I told her to do what was best for the program,” Thomas wrote.
Our article stated, “After getting a final opinion by Huntsville High School Principal Roxanne Enix, Fisher was to meet with architects and contractors Tuesday morning.”
In the Tuesday meeting, Enix recommended that the district stay with the original plans. Without notifying the press or the school board as a whole, Fisher took the plans approved by Enix to the district’s architect and construction company.
We posted our article on Facebook. Suddenly, people commented that our article was inaccurate. People stated we needed to make a retraction. Others implied you couldn’t trust The Record and suggested attending the meeting instead. Lenora Riedel, a board member, stated that she wanted to correct “misconceptions” about the article.
Our reporting was correct. The Board approved making the building smaller if that was what Enix approved. The decision between Enix and Fisher was a decision made by them and not announced to press, the public or the board. Riedel called Enix to find out what the decision was. Riedel suggested that once a decision had been made, the press should have been alerted. We agree.
Fisher submitted the plans to the Arkansas Division of Public Schools Academic Facilities and Transportation on Oct. 15. However, Fisher said on Tuesday that the district was “in the final stages of preparing the plans for re-submission to the ADE Facilities division for final approval.
“With that said, I do not know exactly how long that process will be,” Fisher said. “We did get the corners of the St. Paul CTE Building staked, the main reason for that was, so we can proceed with the planning for the Septic System at that site.”
Thomas said the board will officially vote on the plans after they are approved by the state and he expects approval by the first of the year.
Our job is to alert the public about what is going on in their community, to be a watchdog, hold public institutions accountable and to report accurately. We have made mistakes in the past and we will again. But, this time, we got it right. We reported on a public meeting in which the school board discussed building plans. Apparently, those building plans remain fluid. We were not informed of the district’s decision to stay with the original plans. When we receive information, we do our best to report it accurately.