Lakota board members clash over public records, finances

Departing Lakota Board of Education member Brad Lovell clashed with board veteran Lynda O'Connor during Monday evening's meeting over the district's financial future and whether public records requests should be publicized on the board's meeting agenda. Lovell did not seek re-election after one term on the Lakota board and his four-year term ends on Jan. 1. He and O'Connor have opposed one another periodically in the last two years over a number of issues. (Photo By Michael D. Clark\Journal-News)

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Departing Lakota Board of Education member Brad Lovell clashed with board veteran Lynda O'Connor during Monday evening's meeting over the district's financial future and whether public records requests should be publicized on the board's meeting agenda. Lovell did not seek re-election after one term on the Lakota board and his four-year term ends on Jan. 1. He and O'Connor have opposed one another periodically in the last two years over a number of issues. (Photo By Michael D. Clark\Journal-News)

Board approves district’s five-year budget forecast

The second-to-the-last meeting this year for Lakota’s school board, which may see a politically conservative majority soon with two newly elected members coming aboard, saw a renewal of tensions between a couple of current members.

Departing board member Brad Lovell, who did not seek re-election this month after announcing during the summer he had been hired as business director at another area school district, clashed with the board’s most veteran member — Lynda O’Connor — during Monday evening’s meeting.

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The two, who have publicly disagreed more than any pair on the five-member board in the last two years, took opposite sides over some aspects of Lakota’s five-year financial forecast and how best to handle the district’s projected $118 million cash surplus in coming years.

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Minutes later, the two differed again on whether public records requests should be listed on the board’s meeting agenda, which they are currently not.

Lovell said the district is being overwhelmed at times with such records requests from the public and contended the school community would appreciate the “transparency” of such information.

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O’Connor, however, said publicizing such records requests “might be intimidating for the public” who are using the legally allowed document requests to obtain information on Lakota Schools and its operations.

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O’Connor said it would be better for the new board, which in early January will include conservative members Isaac Adi and Darbi Boddy being sworn in, to decide on such policy change.

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Lovell said “it’s important to recognize it’s our community’s tax dollars that are going to pay for attorneys to respond to the public records requests, so it’s more transparency on how your tax dollars are being spent.”

At the board’s request, Lakota district officials said they will later provide information to members on how some school districts are publicizing such record requests.

Lovell also criticized the coming, changed board make up for what he predicted will be its over-emphasize on retaining the projected $118 million cash surplus at the expense of needed improvements in the facilities of the 17,000-student district.

Now is the time, he said, for the district to address replacing and renovating aging school buildings.

“And I hope that the future board doesn’t shy away from it because they don’t want to say the word (tax) levy. Again, I’m going to be at the microphone as a parent with a child in the (school) system, looking at you and saying to each of you ‘why do we have a cash balance and why are you not taking this opportunity?’”

“And I’m looking at Mrs. O’Connor at this moment,” said Lovell.

O’Connor, a longtime fiscal conservative on the board, said the election of two, first-time candidates — who during their campaigns called for various degrees of fiscal restraint on school spending ― was “our taxpayers holding us accountable.”

The board then voted 4-1 to approve the district’s five-year budget forecast with O’Connor the lone “no” vote.

The board’s next meeting will be at noon on Dec. 16 at Plains Junior School at 5500 Princeton Road.

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