Monday, October 30, 2006


OIP: Board of Education must release redacted minutes of Jim Shon firing

The Office of Information Practices issued a decision today (October 30, 2006) requiring the Board of Education to release redacted minutes of the closed-door meeting at which it fired Jim Shon, the Executive Director of the Charter School Administrative Office. The OIP decision also requires that
Because of the upcoming general election on November 7, 2006, OIP directs that the portion of the minutes that cannot be withheld...must be disclosed no later than the close of business on Wednesday, November 1, 2006.
This requirement will allow the public to understand which of the incumbent BOE members moved to have Shon removed and will reveal their votes on the motions to the public.

The Board of Education went into executive session at its meeting on 7 September 2006. The meeting notice described the purpose of the secret session only as: "Evaluation of the Executive Director of the Charter School Administrative Office."

With the public excluded from the room, the BOE went beyond the matter that was officially noticed (evaluation) and fired the executive director, Jim Shon. By doing this in secret, the public was denied access to the process and lost the opportunity to provide comment and information to the Board prior to its action.

Adding an action item to the agenda that is not in the public notice is a violation of the Sunshine Law to begin with--dealing with the item in secret session compounds the problem.

The announcement the next day (Honolulu Advertiser September 8, 2006: BOE fires charter schools' Jim Shon) that the BOE had summarily dismissed the respected head of the Charter School Administrative Office shocked the charter school movement and its advocates and parents (Advertiser, September 9):
An outpouring of support and dismay from many of the state's public charter schools followed news that the Board of Education had dismissed Charter School Administrative Office executive director Jim Shon.
Of course, a great deal of the anger came as a result of the way the action was taken: behind closed doors and without the notice to the public required by law. The public felt excluded from the process (Star-Bulletin Sept. 9: Schools want charter director to be reinstated).

The BOE violated the Sunshine Law again by not responding to the information request within ten days. They then informed the OIP that they "had responded to, or if it had not, would be responding to" my request. In fact, they have never communicated with me on my request. This is reminiscent of a request I made a number of years ago for BOE information that parents needed in order to prepare testimony for Judge Ezra's final status conference on the Felix Consent Decree. In that instance, the BOE delayed forwarding the information, despite the intervention of the OIP, until it was too late for the hearing.

The question now is whether the BOE will comply with the OIP decision. Certainly, individual Board members who voted to fire Shon may face the wrath of the public in next week's election. The public has a right to know how they voted since the voting was improperly conducted in secret.

Let's see if they comply with the OIP decision on November 1.


Many, many kudos to you for placing an OIP request for the minutes of this meeting. As a candidate, I'm postulated that the BOE should do away with closed door meetings, as they only lead to confusion and suspicion. Nearly every candidate for the BOE claims to support charter schools, though few have the desire to decentralize governance of charters or create a separate board, even subordinate to the BOE, to oversee charter performance. The BOE has become notorious for micromanagement. It will be interesting to see if the incumbent candidates' actions match their campaign trail rhetoric.

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