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No email accounts for Alcona school board

September 10, 2012
Andrew Westrope - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

LINCOLN - The Alcona Community Schools Board of Education elected not to establish email accounts for its members following a discussion about communication preferences and Open Meetings Act concerns on Monday.

Board member Steve Yokom suggested looking into the possibility of school board email accounts two weeks ago, but other members wanted more time to review possible drawbacks and decided on Monday to continue using their current channels of communication with the public. Interim Business Manager Alan Shillair shared a story of a school board member from another district who violated the Open Meetings Act by accidentally clicking a "Reply All" button in an email, effectively holding a non-public meeting and forcing all of that district's board members to surrender their phones and computers for inspection because of a Freedom of Information Act request.

"As a matter of accessibility, I've not heard that we're not accessible as board members. It's a small enough community where everybody knows where we live, and phone numbers," board President Mark Feldhiser said. "The other thing is, with email, some board members have more access or spend more time on email, and I just don't balance situations in that matter."

Most other board members agreed they prefer contact by phone or in person, and Superintendent Shawn Thornton defended the school's current procedure for receiving concerns, which in most cases asks people to talk with a teacher, athletic director, principal, or other related party before going directly to the board.

"One of the concerns that I would have is that, if we were to open (communications) up more broadly than that, we would not circumvent some procedural processes we have in place in the district," she said.

During public comment, a frustrated parent argued that the current channels of communication are insufficient, as she had called the school office to contact the board members, emailed Thornton as she was told, and was still unable to reach all the board members prior to the meeting. Her initial concerns were with the school's decision to consolidate fourth and fifth grade in one split class, and Thornton apologized for misunderstanding the email's note to be forwarded to board members. The parent also voiced concern over student bus limits, and Thornton assured her that while the bus routes are still being tweaked and running about 31 miles per day less than last year, the school would not let a bus exceed capacity.

In other business:

Andrew Westrope can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 358-5693.



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