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Richland Hills group files complaint against Birdville school board

Posted Tuesday, Mar. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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A Richland Hills citizens group -- upset that an elementary school would close if voters approve an $183.2 million bond package in May -- has filed a complaint with the Tarrant County district attorney alleging that the Birdville school board on several occasions violated the Open Meetings Act.

Gerrit Spieker, a spokesman for Keep Richland Open, said Monday that the group filed the complaint March 13 because trustees are not listening to their concerns over closing Richland Elementary, one of two elementary campuses in Richland Hills.

"No meeting was held with the City Council. We went to five meetings, and not once was educating students mentioned," Spieker said.

Mark Thomas, a spokesman for the school district, said he was not aware that the complaint had been filed.

"Until we see something official in writing, I can't make any comment on it," Thomas said.

James B. Morgan, an attorney who represents the school board, told Spieker in a March 6 letter that the citizens bond committee held numerous meetings to discuss the bond and that the board also held workshops to discuss what would be included.

However, no decisions were made until the Feb. 28 meeting, when trustees approved calling the bond election, he wrote.

"This procedure is typical for all school boards in developing proposals for bond elections," Morgan wrote. "This is similar to how the annual budgets are developed each year."

Morgan also wrote that notices and agendas were properly posted, and that minutes were taken when formal votes were taken.

Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Ann Diamond said her office has received information from citizens and that it will be reviewed in the next two weeks.

The complaint states that the trustees discussed and made decisions on which projects would be included in the bond package during workshops and not during regularly scheduled board meetings. The complaint also alleges that when trustees voted to call the bond election Feb. 28, they did not discuss which projects to include before the vote.

During the Jan. 15 and Feb. 11 meetings, the board chose to accept outright some citizens bond committee recommendations, the complaint states.

The bond package calls for consolidating four elementary schools. Richland Elementary would close and merge with the larger Birdville campus in Haltom City, and W.T. Francisco students would attend Smith Elementary, also in Haltom City. Birdville and Smith would be rebuilt as part of the bond package.

School district officials say they need to close Richland because the school is old and because its student population is dwindling.

Keep Richland Open opposed the plan, saying students would be in overcrowded classrooms and would have to be bused out of their neighborhood. They also questioned why a new school couldn't be built on the site of the old building.

Elizabeth Campbell,

817-390-7696

Twitter: @fwstliz

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