Creation of an environment for open, constructive dialogue between the school district and public at Board of Education meetings is a crucial responsibility shared by board members and the citizens who elected them.
The district must embrace a willingness to listen, share information and answer questions. Citizens must follow the protocol established for input. Both sides must embrace civility.
If all of the above doesn't happen, meetings can degenerate - sometimes to unacceptable levels.
A heated exchange like the one between Superintendent Paul Gausman and citizen Dan Greenwell at the board's March 26 meeting (described in a March 31 Journal story) shouldn't happen. Both men share blame for a spectacle we do not believe served the public well.
In our view, here's how school board meetings should work (we apply the same general principles to public meetings of all local government bodies):
- The school board approves guidelines for citizen input. Citizens who appear before the board should stay within the rules.
- The board president runs the meeting, not the superintendent. Citizens should speak to and address concerns and questions to the board, not to the superintendent and not to department managers in the superintendent's administration. Board members represent citizens of the district. The superintendent and his administration work under the direction of the board.
- Board members provide citizens with information they seek and answers to questions they ask or request the superintendent or department managers do this for them.
- Citizens exercise respect and proper decorum.
We believe this blueprint for meetings speaks effectively to what should be a shared goal of open, valuable discourse between the school district and the public it serves.