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Superintendent's salary increase raises transparency questions

By Will Wadley, KECI Weekend Anchor, wwadley@keci.com
Published On: Jan 18 2013 06:35:10 PM MST
Alex Apostle 8.24.12
MISSOULA, Mont. -

NBC Montana told you how the Missoula school board voted to give Superintendent Alex Apostle a 13 percent raise next year, while teachers get a 2 percent pay bump.

The vote was held at a special meeting on Monday, after being struck from last week's regularly scheduled board meeting.

Now viewers, teachers, and a freedom of information expert are raising questions about the transparency of that special meeting.

Email archives show the district didn't send out the agenda for Monday’s January 14 meeting until the Friday before, and the email list the district sent the agenda to is about a quarter of the size the list the district uses to distribute their regular board meeting agendas.

Freedom of information expert attorney Mike Meloy said the Montana Supreme Court's general guidelines for public meetings of “significant” public interest is for "reasonable" notice to be given in a manner that gets word to the people who would be interested in attending the meeting.

Meloy said the guideline’s vagueness makes it difficult to clearly identify a violation, but he said he believes the district’s notice for the special meeting challenged the “spirit” of the meeting.

Sentinel High School Teacher Gary Stein said the meeting was poorly attended.

"Media couldn't get there… nobody was there,” said Stein. “In effect, this compensation evaluation of the superintendent of course passed with flying colors. Forget any opposition, there was no transparency."

School Board Chair Toni Rehbein failed to return our calls for comment by news time Friday.