Newspapers Challenge Casper, Wyo., School Committee’s Closed Meeting

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Casper Journal Publisher Dale Bohren and Casper Star-Tribune Editor Clark Walworth said they would challenge the local school district’s decision to allow a school scheduling committee to meet in secret.

The committee was assembled to decide such things as what time school would start in the morning, when vacation days would be scheduled and when teacher training would take place in the Natrona County School District.

When Bohren and a Casper Journal reporter went to cover Tuesday’s committee meeting, Superintendent Jim Lowham said the committee hadn’t decided whether to allow the public into meetings. Lowham later said the committee spent three hours of its eight-hour meeting Monday discussing whether to allow the public into meetings.

“They thought it would chill the process,” he said.

Walworth called the decision “regrettable.”

“This is a process aimed at making a decision of intense interest to the public,” Walworth said. “There can’t be any good reason for doing it in secret.”

Jim Angell, executive director of the Wyoming Press Association, said the district’s decision violated the state open meetings law.

“State law says any group that gets together and makes recommendations for the use of public resources on the public’s behalf needs to have its meetings open to the public,” he said. “I don’t understand why they have to have these meetings in secret.”

Lowham said school officials would reconsider their policy this month.

Meanwhile, Bohren and Walworth said they would pursue the matter with the school district and would consider taking legal action.

“Democracy is never pretty,” Angell said, “but the best form of it always happens in the open.”

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