Wise: Board will develop lawsuit answer

Published 12:03 am Saturday, November 18, 2017

Thank you for your report on the recent special School Board meeting. I’m still not sure what sparked it, but it raised an important question: When should the Board become involved in whether to settle a lawsuit. (The Board already becomes involved when a suit goes to trial but the large majority of claims is settled out of court.)

The story pointed out that our General Counsel, D.A. Bridget Dinvaut, and the private firm that handles suits filed against the Board spent a good deal of time fighting over whether one particular case should have been settled without School Board approval.

The main problem was that the Board has no formal policy on the issue. Most suits are small claims — a child slips and falls on a playground, a bus is in a minor accident.

Instead of getting involved in every case, we have traditionally let the lawyers and the Superintendent reach a settlement if they can. But there is no formal written policy on whether the Board itself needs to act.
So I asked — and the Board agreed — that the lawyers and the Superintendent work together to develop a policy and bring it to the Board for our approval. There will be time for public input so people will have the opportunity to suggest changes before the vote.

I think this is mostly a tempest in a teapot and shouldn’t be blown out of proportion. The case is settled. The only thing left to do is to decide where the School Board should have to approve some, or all, future settlements.

— Russ Wise

St. John School Board, District 9