“The vote of the public seems to be a greater opportunity for participation,” says Superintendent Jim Clark. A resolution by the board, on the other hand, could be questioned by one citizen and subsequently determined by one district court judge, he says.
The school board has already been questioned—in the form of a 2004 lawsuit. A series of closed meetings by the district’s budget team prompted the suit, which asks that the district implement decision-making processes that allow the public to “meaningfully” participate. That suit is pending. Molly Moody, a plaintiff in the suit, sees the district’s decision to put the potential Roosevelt sale to a vote as paying “lip service” to meaningful public involvement.
“They’re still not practicing that. They’re not fully informing the public,” says Moody of the board and administration. “They have it all lined up. They’re going to do what they’re going to do.”
The board and administration are, in fact, moving in the direction of selling Roosevelt. In late September, the district issued a press release asking for proposals from any parties interested in buying the property.
Meanwhile, the Missoula Catholic Schools have another five years before its $70,000 annual lease on Roosevelt expires. And Superintendent Clark is in the midst of creating a facilities plan for the district (which will be available to the board and the public for review within three months).
So why Roosevelt, and why now?
“The Missoula Catholic Schools (MCS) had made an offer with some timelines on it,” says Superintendent Clark. The district, he says, is already late according to MCS’ timelines.
But Trustee Carol Bellin isn’t sure that the Roosevelt school is the best choice for the district to sell.
“That facility, among all facilities, in my mind, is one of the most versatile properties that our district owns,” she says.