JROTC controversy still Board of Ed thorn

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 23, 2003

In its monthly meeting last week, the Butler County Board of Education once again was confronted with the issue of the JROTC program's possible termination. Only this time the issue revolved around Butler County Superintendent Dr. Mike Reed's refusal to let JROTC staff instructor Colonel Eustice Shriver review audio tapes from the May 12 board meeting in which the superintendent recommended the reinstatement of the program to the county's curriculum.

Shriver stated that he had sent several requests to Reed asking to review the audio tapes, which were used to record the meeting for the board's transcriptionist.

&uot;I just want to hear for myself what was

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actually said,&uot; Shriver said. &uot;The minutes that were approved do not reflect what was said in that meeting.&uot;

In this month's meeting, the superintendent requested that the board's audio tapes be destroyed once a meeting's minutes were approved rather than be stored indefinitely, as is currently the case.

Board member Linda Hamilton questioned the need for the tapes' destruction.

&uot;We have been told that if we send emails, they need to be retained,&uot; Hamilton said. &uot;Why would we want to destroy the only record we have of what was actually said in case there is a dispute? Without that tape, we could not go back and clarify. I think we need to hold them for at least four or five years before we destroy them.&uot;

Reed said that the recommendation for the policy came from the Alabama School Board Association's executive director, Sandra Sims-DeGraffenried.

&uot;The reasoning behind the recommendation is that the school board speaks through the written minutes after they are approved,&uot; Reed said. &uot;I understand that this is not a new issue for the board. With the latest controversy about the tapes, this is probably not the best timing in the world.&uot;

Sims-DeGraffenried said that the audio tapes used for recording the meetings were never intended to be used as public records of the board meetings.

&uot;They are used as a tool to assist the person appointed to record the minutes of the meetings,&uot; she said. &uot;The superintendent is the official secretary of the board meetings, but he usually appoints someone else to record what is said. That person sometimes chooses to record the minutes on audio tape and transcribe them later. That is their only function. The approved minutes are the official record of the meeting.&uot;

She also said the school board association didn't have an issue with school boards retaining tapes of their meetings if those boards had problems in the past with correct transcription.

&uot;We don't have a lot of school boards statewide who have problems with their minutes,&uot; she said. &uot;But they have piles of tapes sitting around, many of them that can no longer be used, and we don't see the point in retaining them indefinitely.&uot;

The executive director said that each board should set their tape destruction policy based on their needs. She further pointed out that it was the responsibility of each school board to make sure the minutes accurately reflect what took place at the meetings, and make any changes to the minutes that may be called for at the next meeting.

&uot;The minutes are our historical record of what took place,&uot; she said. &uot;The board members should diligently read those minutes and only approve them if they are correct.&uot;

During the meeting, Board president Billy Jones called for an executive

session in which permission to let Shriver review the tapes, per his attorney's request, was discussed.

The superintendent reported that the request would be honored and that the continuation of the JROTC program would be presented to the Butler County Education Association pursuant to Shriver's attorney's request.

Reed reiterated that the program's future rested on the school system receiving adequate funding and encouraged the meeting attendees to push for passage of Governor Riley's pending tax package.

&uot;If the governor's tax package doesn't pass,&uot; he said, &uot;there will be an appropriations issue across the state. The legislature will have to go into another special session in September, because they have not approved a state budget for next year. Once we get that budget, we will know how much we have to fund with. If the funding is not available, the board will have to look at all of the system's programs and make a decision on how we can stretch our money the best way.&uot;