Heated school district meeting delays state funding for Brownsboro school

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Lack of adherence to state regulation tables vote

By Tracy Harris

Planning and Development Director Jim Urban became the voice of Oldham County on Thursday.

Well, at least to those residents who complain the school board doesn’t listen, moves forward on projects regardless of the community’s feelings and generally does what it wants.

Urban is a member of the Local Planning Committee for the school district. The committee met Thursday to vote on changing the priority level of the Brownsboro school, which would allow the district to use nearly $2 million in state funds for the project.

Criticism about the meeting began when it was first announced — read The Era story about it here.

Committee members include teachers, administrators and community members, along with OCBE board member Walt Schumm and Superintendent Paul Upchurch.

Jim Ewalt, facilities director for the school district, lead the meeting, opening with a brief overview of the situation. 

“A vote against the finding will not affect the project itself, but will affect the school district’s ability to fund other building projects,” Ewalt said.

Urban is used to ensuring property owners follow local regulations, and brought that same mindset to the LPC. 

After noticing an error in a June memo, Urban reviewed the state’s administrative regulations. He started with just one page related to finding hearings, then went back and read the entire 74-page manual.

Early in the meeting, Urban asked several questions about the regulations, including asking if someone was taking official minutes. Ewalt said he would be keeping the minutes.

Urban then asked about the KAR finding process, which states the LPC “shall review the current district facilities plan and the district’s financial, demographic and physical condition.” 

Urban asked where that information was, because it was not included in the packet sent to committee members. 

He said he assumed that information would be part of a presentation at the meeting. He was told that the original committee members had seen that information when the district facility plan was passed in 2008. 

But Urban maintained that didn’t comply with state regulations, and that the information needed to be shared.

“I’m not trying to be a jerk about this,” he said. “I’m just trying to do my job.”

Upchurch asked Urban how understanding the demographics would help him make a decision.

Urban said it was less about the actual information and more about the process.

“I can’t just come here, stay 15 minutes and walk away,” he said, then have people in the community say, “Well, you got sucked into that, you need to put on your lanyard.”

Urban was referring to ID badges worn on lanyards by Oldham County Schools’ employees and board members. The audience applauded.

“It would’ve been real nice if you just would’ve let us know before wasting these good people’s time,” Upchurch said.

“I didn’t waste anybody’s time here,” Urban said. “I think you all did. You wasted our time by not giving us the paperwork that was required.”

There was also argument about what to do when Urban motioned to table the issue until the additional information was provided. 

Robert’s Rules of Order says that a motion to lay an issue on the table needs a second, is not open for debate and requires a simple majority to pass.

Initially, only three people voted to table the vote. One audience member, before the audience was told to remain silent, said the committee “had been bought” by the school board.

“I got out-voted by people with lanyards on a committee that seems useless to me,” Urban said. Of the 19 committee members, 11 are employed by the school district.

Several people said they had seen the original financial and demographic information; however, only four of the committee members raised their hands that they had been on the original LPC.

Ewalt and Urban then got in an argument, as Urban tried to talk to committee members and Ewalt said he was talking for them. 

Urban got up, said he was tired of “listening to [Ewalt’s] B.S.” — and was again applauded. 

“Go ahead and make your vote,” Urban said. “It was apparent before we even sat down that it didn’t matter to you all about the KAR.”

Urban then left the room, with several people following him into the hallway. 

Board of Education and LPC member Walt Schumm then wrapped up the meeting. “In respect to proper protocol, we should honor the offer to table this motion,” he said.

He said proving the information would help the board’s “effort to be completely transparent.”

To that statement, Upchurch said, “That’s good.” 

The committee voted to pass a motion to provide the information and reconvene at a later date, and adjourned the meeting.