Archive for Thursday, October 5, 2000

School board has been painted into a corner


October 5, 2000

The DeSoto school board is caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to doing the right thing.

Each board member was elected with one objective: Doing what's best for the DeSoto school district and its surrounding community.

We have no doubt the school board is trying to make the best possible deal in figuring out what to do with the Monticello kindergarten building in Shawnee.

Unfortunately, it took some bad legal advice and now finds itself in the middle of a public-relations fiasco. Even after it looked like it was going to figure it out, recent comments show it hasn't.

It has to do what's best for the district, which is selling the land at the highest price possible, but doing so would place a wedge between the district and its tax-paying constituents.

Last month, the district filed suit against neighbors of the former school building to clear the deed to the property. District officials have assured the neighbors the suit was a mistake.

Although they authorized the school district's attorney John Vratil to take action to clear the title, board members said they didn't know the lawyer was referring to the legal definition of action, meaning a lawsuit.

We can believe that.

It was a lapse in communication, which turned into a misunderstanding.

That was proven when the lawsuit was withdrawn.

However, board members told the neighbors at a recent meeting that they needed a clear title to clear the title. They asked the neighbors to sign a quit claim of their possible interest in the property and those who didn't sign would be named in a future lawsuit.

In other words, the school board painted itself into the proverbial corner and the only way out is to make a big mess.

Neighbors want the land for a city park, while the school district can make more money selling it to a developer.

"It's our obligation to pursue its monetary value," said school board member Rick Walker. "As a board member, I feel I would be negligent it I didn't."

We couldn't agree more.

Unfortunately, the way this situation has been handled has put the school board in a bad position. Recouping full-market value for this land will likely come with great cost to the board's perceived credibility and concern for the community.

Somehow, that doesn't seem fair.

It's our hope there is an amiable solution to this problem.

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