A scheduled health benefits negotiation between the local school system and teachers' association was canceled Monday and replaced with a closed-door "brainstorming" session.
Deputy Superintendent Rick Smith, who was in the meeting, would not step out of the meeting to talk with the Chattanooga Times Free Press. When asked to cite the statute under which he would not allow the media into the meeting, he said he would not do so without his lawyer.
He said Monday's session was a Labor and Management Committee meeting.
Lawyer Scott Bennett, who represents the Hamilton County Board of Education, said he did not know what was discussed at Monday's meeting, where members of the Hamilton County Education Association and the school district's negotiation teams both were present.
He said a "brainstorming" meeting could easily come close to violating the state's open meetings law.
Official negotiations are always open to the public and any conversation about board policy also must be open, he said.
"If it was brainstorming, things they might present to (a larger) committee, that's probably a violation," he said. "You've got to be real careful that you don't stray too far toward policy. As long as they're not on the negotiations platform where they're kicking around ideas, then they're OK."
At last Monday's negotiation session, members agreed that the agenda for Monday's canceled meeting was to include a discussion on which of 23 employee health insurance options were viable.
Kelli Gauthier covers K-12 education in Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She started at the paper as an intern in 2006, crisscrossing the region writing feature stories from Pikeville, Tenn., to Lafayette, Ga. She also covered crime and courts before taking over the education beat in 2007. A native of Frederick, Md., Kelli came south to attend Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. Before newspapers, ...