The appellant argued that the District's local board of directors violated the procedural guidelines in 281?Iowa Administrative Code 19.3, when it made its decision on April 16, 2007, to move grades 3 ? 5 from one attendance center to another attendance center beginning the 2007-2008 school year.
The local school board first discussed the grade realignment at its regular meeting of March 19. It held no public informational meeting (a parent had to organize the one and only informational meeting that was held, although the superintendent did participate in the same), and then voted on the issue April 16.
Rule 19.3 states that, when making a decision regarding a realignment of the grades to be taught in an attendance center, a local board must substantially comply with all of the following steps:(1) The board and groups and individuals selected by the board shall carry out sufficient research, study and planning. The research, study and planning shall include consideration of, at a minimum, student enrollment statistics, transportation costs, financial gains and losses, program offerings, plant facilities, and staff assignment.(2) The board shall post or cause to be posted the grade realignment proposal in a prominent place at the affected attendance center(s). The board shall also publish the grade realignment proposal in the agenda of an upcoming board meeting open to the public.(3) The board shall promote open and frank public discussion of the facts and issues involved.(4) The board shall make its final decision in an open meeting with a record made thereof.
Substantial compliance is all that is required. The purpose of rule 19.3 and of the review by the State Board is not whether the grade realignment decision "was the best course for the District." The focus of the review is the process followed by the local board.The District argued that its compliance with the Open Meetings law (Iowa Code chapter 21) for the two regular board meetings (March 19's discussion item and April 16's action item) substantially complied with rule 19.3. When a local school board is considering a grade realignment, that issue is not a "business as usual" agenda item. The District needed to post an explanation in both attendance centers that the local board was considering moving grades 3 ? 5 from Everly to Royal.
The State Board also disagreed with the District's contention that two board meetings and an informational meeting organized by a parent of an affected student were adequate to promote open and frank public discussion. The District made no effort to notify the public of this item other than its usual and customary posting of the tentative agenda. Therefore, it is not enough that the District posted a tentative agenda of the March and April regular board meetings in the manner in which it posts agenda of all regular board meetings; the District had an obligation to post separately (not just in a tentative board agenda) the grade realignment proposal in a prominent place at the affected attendance centers. Likewise, it is not enough that the District agreed to cooperate with the parent-organized informational meeting; the District had an obligation to affirmatively promote open and frank public discussion of the facts and issues involved.
For the foregoing reasons, the decision of the local board was REVERSED.