Mediation Offer Rejected by Stillwater Schoolboard
Tuesday, September, 3, 2019
Despite the ability of mediation to bring both sides together to discuss issues at hand and potentially resolve the dispute, the Stillwater school board has rejected the offer to bring in a neutral third-party to assist negotiations. The motion to explore the potential for mediation was rejected at the most recent board meeting. Had the motion passed, the mediation would have been funded by a grant supplied by the Lee S. and Dorothy N. Whitson Fund. The motion failed in a 3-3 vote.
The proposal to mediate was offered by the Whiston Fund in mid-July after school board members approved a resolution to explore a separation agreement. Later in the month at an open forum, several speakers requested that the board consider mediation and use it to address the internal issues between the superintendent and board members. The alternative was the board buying out the superintendent’s remaining three years on her contract.
At that time, the board voted to add mediation to the reports, but that motion was not a binding contract. It was just an effort to determine how mediation might benefit those involved in the dispute. It was pointed out that nobody ever agreed to “go right into it,” and that the motion was just to continue the conversation about the potential for using mediation.
According to board members, mediation was rejected because legal counsel advised them to do so because it would not be carried out in a closed meeting. Legal counsel was concerned that an open mediation session would put board members at risk for liability for defamation and the release of private personnel data.