Committee meetings aimed at hammering out agreements on changes to the Racine Unified employee handbook have been canceled after Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty said previous meetings violated the state’s open meetings law.

Specifically, WILL asserted that because the school board established a committee tasked with a solid objective, all meetings of the committee should be held in open session, a story in The Journal Times reads. Three meetings were already in the books, and another two meetings were scheduled for the coming weeks.

Those meetings – May 28 and June 4 – have been canceled until the district’s legal counsel advises officials on the best way to proceed, the story continues.

The committee was formed according to a section of the handbook that states any changes will only be done after employee unions get a seat at the table and the group comes to consensus and forwards recommendations to the full board.

School board members are not required to accept that recommendation, though, and can vote them either up or down.

Administrators first proposed changes last month to the employee handbook that included how teachers are hired, pay for extra duties like committees and training, and broadening the definition of a sick day to include caring for a sick child.

Employee unions objected to the changes and the way measures were introduced and insisted the district follow handbook protocol by participating in committee meetings. The school board May 18 narrowly rejected removing from the handbook the section that defines how changes are made.

Rick Esenberg, founder and president of WILL, and Naomi Baden, executive director of the Racine UniServ Council, agree the meetings should be held in open session so members of the RUSD community can attend.

“I think it’s best they’ve suspended (the meetings) and I think they need to think long and hard about what they’ve been doing,” Esenberg is quoted in the JT story. “If they want to have these meetings, they should do it in the open.”

Baden agreed.

“We wholly embrace the involvement of the public in our handbook discussions,” Baden told the newspaper. “We encourage RUSD to provide public notice of meetings … get them back on the calendar and give public notice of these meetings.”

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