Bozeman school trustees cleared a big milestone last week when they decided to offer the school superintendent’s job to Bob Connors, superintendent of schools in Glasgow. But the way they went about it left much to be desired. The board opted to close the first hour of their meeting to the public – the time set aside to discuss the references and past job performance of the three finalists for the position.

That was a bad call.

Montana open government law calls for all meetings of government deliberative bodies to be open to the public unless the right to individual privacy exceeds the public’s right to know. The superintendent of schools is one of the most important positions in the community. And the public has a right to know how the trustees evaluate candidates and arrive at a decision. Those who apply for such a high-profile position understand the importance of the selection process and should expect that their qualifications will be discussed openly.

The framers of the Montana Constitution were very deliberate about including requirements for maximum transparency in all government business. Their intent was to instill as much trust as possible between government and its constituents.

The Bozeman School Board has historically been unerring in remaining true to those requirements. That has inspired a great deal of trust, and the board has been rewarded for that by voter approval for some very expensive investments in the public school system. Witness the approval of a $125 million bond issue to build a new high school and renovate the existing one.

But that trust will become strained if the board insists on conducting what should be public business behind closed doors.

Though details are yet to be worked out, it’s assumed Connors and the board will come to an agreement on his compensation and he will assume the role later this summer. He is certainly wished the best of luck as Bozeman’s next school superintendent.

But the trustees should reflect on their decision to close the meeting that led to his hiring. Our community expects better.

Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Don Beeman, community member
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Sarabeth Rees, community member
  • David Swingle, community member

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