Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Public Input: Where is the public?
Our school board had a public meeting last Monday, to gather input on our yearly goals. We met at the local library, in a big, comfortable room. The library is new and attractive, warm and airy. It sits in the middle of town, with plenty of parking and accessible to most people simply by walking. Meeting notices had been emailed, posted and publicized.
We anticipated a good crowd. Our district had just completed a consolidation, closing one school and moving students to another, and major renovations putting Stimulus Moneys to work in our town. Also, just a few weeks previously, there was an incident over a weekend involving arson and theft at the high school that had the whole community buzzing. Over $ 4,000 dollars were raised overnight by students and community to catch the perpetrators of such acts. Our board of directors had been busy maintaining open communication on many fronts and felt that a public meeting would allow many people to ask questions, receive answers, and feel reassured about the future of our schools. Our goal setting protocol had not been this elaborate in the past, I might add.
Working on goals with our community would have allowed us all to clear the air, concentrate on children's future, and face our challenges together. The specialist from Oregon School Board Association that was invited to guide us, had been briefed on what our situation was and what we might expect. We had set aside a good four hours for this task.
The day was rainy. Nothing unusual about that. I walked to the event, a mere 1/2 mile from my house.
At meeting time, we counted two community members: a parent, and a volunteer. The rest of the group was associated with the district in some capacity or other. We explored our strenghts and challenges, identified areas of need, outlined priorities. The group worked hard and left satisfied and united in their resolve to build strong schools.
Everyone leaves politics for the politicians. That's not how democracy works. If we don't get into the conversations, how will anyone know what's on our minds, what our needs are?
You see, politics is about the good of the many.