ENCINITAS — The Encinitas Union School District acknowledged that an August retreat attended by four of its five elected board members violated the state’s open meeting laws, but the attorney who demanded the acknowledgment said the district’s response was insufficient.
At a special meeting held at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, the school board met in closed session, and reported out of closed session its acknowledgement that it violated the Ralph M. Brown act and an unconditional commitment to abide by the Brown Act in future activities.
A supermajority of board members in August attended the management team retreat at a resort just outside of Palm Springs, which prompted public outcry that the retreat violated state laws that ensure the public’s right to open meetings.
However, the cease-and-desist letter that prompted the district’s action specifically required that the district take action on an item that was publicly noticed as a business item on the agenda.
The district’s closed session agenda — which provides scant details about the items being discussed behind closed doors — is not enough, said Kelly Aviles, the attorney representing Californians Aware.
“The state statute is very specific about the steps the district needs to take, specifically requiring them to have a separately noticed agenda item that makes the public aware of the issue that has been raised and what the response is,” Aviles said Thursday. “Reporting out of closed session is not enough, and we will be sending them a follow-up letter asking them to do what we asked in our demands and what is required by state statute.”
An Encinitas School Board candidate who was one of two parents in attendance at the special meeting said the district’s approach was emblematic of a lack of transparency within the school board’s governance.
“While I am pleased that the administration and Board chose to capitulate to the cease and desist demand, I am very disappointed in what is once again another example of a stark lack of transparency with this administration,” Hamler said.
“I find it ironic that the whole purpose of the Brown Act is to encourage open government and transparency, yet this special meeting was scheduled at a time undeniably inconvenient to parents, and the public was once again not given any meaningful notice that the Board was even going to consider this item at the special meeting, again depriving the public of a meaningful opportunity to participate.”
School officials did not return calls for comment at the time of publication.