Open letter to parents, teachers and taxpayers
I would like to reiterate my position on an agenda item for the Aug. 13 meeting, regarding the Nevada County Board of Education reviewing monthly expense reports from the superintendent.
This agenda item rests on a flawed premise by asking whether or not the County Board of Education will follow California Education Code
This agenda item in reality reads: “Shall the County Board of Education review a monthly expense report of the County Superintendent of Schools, in accordance with Education Code section 1080.”
The fact that an item on the agenda asks the board whether or not the to comply with California law is preposterous.
In 1979 and by Resolution 79137, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors transferred its financial responsibilities related to the County Superintendent of Schools to the County Board of Education.
Over the past 36 years, I have taken this financial responsibility very seriously, because our children depend on the fiscal soundness of our schools.
Prior to taking office, both the County Superintendent of Schools and each member of the County Board of Education took a solemn oath declaring that they would support the laws of the State of California, and that they would, to the best of their ability, faithfully discharge the duties of the office.
Pursuant to Education Code section 1080 and by virtue of such resolution, the County Board of Education has an affirmative duty to determine the allowance of the expenses of the County Superintendent of Schools.
In order to fulfill the duty imposed by the Nevada County Board of Supervisors and the California legislature, the County Board of Education must first know the expenses.
In other words, the County Superintendent of Schools must first openly and transparently disclose such expenses prior to the approval of the County Board of Education. This open and transparent disclosure is common sense and required by state law.
I vividly remember instances in the past at Ready Springs and Union Hill schools where board members were providing services to the district while due to a lack of transparency other board members were not privy to this illegal practice.
Board members in those districts had to resign and were fined by the District Attorney. In short, the law requires openness and transparency.
Imagine a member of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors having to file a public records request of the county’s executive in order to adequately fulfill their legally imposed financial duties. That scenario is the same scenario we have here.
This is exactly what I had to do to obtain 230-plus pages of records that after five years were finally released on July 3.
How can the County Board of Education fulfill its legally imposed duties when a County Superintendent of Schools fails to disclose his/her expenses in an open and transparent manner?
While the County Office of Education travel expenses may only represent 1 percent of the budget, it is equal to two teachers’ salaries.
At a time when we are laying off teachers county-wide, 1 percent of the budget is a big deal to the teachers, the students and their parents.
Let’s be very clear. California law does not state that if the expenditures of the County Superintendent of Schools are less than a certain percentage, the county board of education does not need to fulfill its legally obligated and affirmative duties.
This argument makes no sense and is an affront to the parents, teachers, and students in this community.
We could be starting a dangerous precedent if we should choose to follow some of the Education Codes and disregard others.
We owe the teachers, students, and parents in this community more than lip service.
We owe the community accountability, openness, and transparency, and asking the Board whether or not to follow California law is not any of those things.
Marianne Slade-Troutman is the Nevada County Board of Education’s immediate past president and is running for re-election to the board this fall. She lives in Nevada City.
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