More than one-thousand education leaders from across the state are in Des Moines today and tomorrow  for the 65th annual convention of the Iowa Association of School Boards. The association has been under scrutiny for the past year for misuse of taxpayer dollars and a former chief executive was fired after complaints about her salary.

One legislator, Senator Rich Olive of Story City, has suggested there was a “culture of ineptitude” in the organization. “Iowans and this committee are pissed that this went on, and that’s the truth,” Olive said. Olive has been co-chair of the Legislative Oversight Committee which held several hearings this year to examine the operations of the Association of School Boards.

Senator Tom Courtney is another member of that committee. “We spend over $3 billion a year in this state on education and these people found a way to steal some of it,” Courtney said. “They stole money. This is outrageous.” The Association of School Boards hired an interim director late this spring and the lawyer who was brought in to help sort out operations told legislators the current associations current leaders understand the “seriousness” of the matter.

Marti Kline, the new communications director for the association, says this week’s two-day summit is offering the state’s school board members and administrators a professional development opportunity. “We’ve got a number of workshops and roundtable sessions covering lots and lots of different topics on school finance and student achievement,” she says, “and all kinds of new things that are going on in the world of education.”

One workshop is designed to teach school board members about the requirements of the state’s Open Meetings and Records Law. The Des Moines Register has just filed a complaint with the state ombudsman’s office in protest after the association failed to provide certain records to the newspaper’s reporters.

Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City