Bryan ISD Board Decision Sparks Controversy

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BRYAN, Texas It started as an ordinary Bryan ISD board meeting, but with just a few words, it ended in controversy.

Navasota ISD officials were at the September 16 meeting to talk about a "Race to the Top" grant application. The district was in the running for the grant along with two other districts.

Navasota officials decided to pull out of the application process, and wanted Bryan ISD to take over. A Navasota ISD official was at the meeting to present the details of the grant.

Dr. Douglas Wunneburger is the president of the Bryan ISD Board of Trustees. He said they wanted to know more, so they asked.

"In the course of the discussion on the grant, the question came up of why the other district was not pursuing it," said Wunneburger. "at some point, the representative from the other district stated that she was uncomfortable talking about it."

Wunneburger said he decided to move the meeting into executive session.

Joe Larsen with the Freedom of Information Foundation said by law, the board should have given the public notice about that decision.

Wunneburger said during the meeting that his reason for moving the discussion to executive session was personnel related. But Larsen said that's not good enough.

"I'm at a loss to comprehend how a competitive grant issue could be characterized as a personnel issue," Larsen said.

Larsen said by law, personnel issues may qualify as an exception to the public notification law, but even then, there are strict rules.

"It's not some broad category that you can stuff all kinds of things into," Larsen said.

School officials don't deny what they did may have been wrong, but they said they did it with the best of intentions.

"I may have made a mistake, but it was my mistake," Wunneburger said. "And I made it in a good-faith effort in order to keep from hurting someone's reputation."

Wunneburger said he wanted to respect the wishes of Navasota. He said he tries to learn from his mistakes, and plans to do things differently if an issue like this comes up again.

In a statement, Navasota superintendent Rory Gresch said there were conditions with personnel, among other things, that prevented the district from making the commitment necessary to sustain the requirements of the grant over time.