Conway School District Superintendent Jeff Collum

Conway School District Superintendent Jeff Collum forced a student’s parent to leave a school board gathering at Theodore Jones Elementary School today.

Julee Jaeger, who closely follows school board meetings, had taken off work to attend the board’s luncheon gathering from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the school her child attends.

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In late September, a school communications employee, Heather Kendrick, sent me a list of all of the board’s luncheons and locations. The meeting today was among those she listed.

And under state law, a public meeting was clearly under way. Per Arkansas law:

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Except as otherwise specifically provided by law, all meetings, formal or informal, special or regular, of the governing bodies of all municipalities, counties, townships, and school districts and all boards, bureaus, commissions, or organizations of the State of Arkansas, except grand juries, supported wholly or in part by public funds or expending public funds, shall be public meetings.

Jaeger saw at least three board members present: Linda Hargis, Trip Leach and Jennifer Cunningham. Others may have been there whom she didn’t see. Several parents were helping with the luncheon as well.

Jaeger said she was seated and looking at her computer when Collum approached her and denied the gathering was a public meeting. Jaeger said she has recorded her conversation with Collum and that she records all school board meetings she attends.

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In the audio, Jaeger can be heard telling Collum that this is a public meeting. He responds that it is not.

I had been told recently that I was welcome to attend. Once I even was told a seat would be saved for me if I let them know in advance. I have encouraged the public to attend these luncheon gatherings since they are not recorded and I cannot attend all of them.

Jaeger said Collum treated her as if he was a police officer by asking her if she was refusing to comply with his instructions. He gave her two minutes to leave, and she did.

I asked Collum, Kendrick and Assistant Superintendent Joel Linn for comment. Collum just referred me to the school district’s attorney, Jay Bequette. I have left phone ad email messages for Bequette.

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