Former La Crosse School Board members speak out about communication policy

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — The public rarely gets to hear from school board members on La Crosse’s School Board. It isn’t until they leave the board that people get the chance. That’s because of a policy implemented 17 years ago.

If checks and balances exist to give everyone a voice, then it doesn’t explain why School Board President Juan Jimenez speaks for the entire school board.

“That was never the intention of that policy and it’s really quite disappointing,” said Debra Suchla, a former member of the Board of Education for the School District of La Crosse.

A school district spokesperson told News 8 Now, under the current policy, all media requests are directed to the board president and only the board president.

“I think it’s taking away the voice of individuals on the board. It’s also taking away the public’s right to know what their elected officials want to do and why they’re doing what they’re doing,” said Suchla.

Suchla spent 17 years on the school board. She says the board president was the sole spokesperson when a policy was decided by the board.

“We as a board needed to stand together and support it, no matter what side you stood on it,” said Suchla.

Prior to any policy passing, board members were able to discuss their opinions at board meetings and with members of the media.

“Why would the public vote for any of the board members if you don’t know what they stand for?” said Suchla.

When a school board rarely disagrees or has differing opinions – it runs into the possibility of being a ‘rubber stamp’ board.

“It’s absolutely a rubber stamp board,” said former school board member, Rob Abraham.

In August, Abraham resigned from his position on the board.

“I needed to do something that would draw the attention of not only the school board, but the public,” he said.

According to Abraham, board members with opposing voices aren’t given the opportunity to discuss their points.

“It comes to the point where you feel as a board member where you’re supposed to show up, smile, and vote yes,” said Abraham.

So while checks and balances are intended to give everyone a voice, under the La Crosse School Board’s policy, taxpayers only hear one voice– President Juan Jimenez.

News 8 Now did reach out to President Juan Jimenez for a comment. We were told he is out of town. Per the policy, no one else on the board could comment.

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