School board should make all avenues of communication available
Monday’s special meeting of the Marietta City Schools Board of Education packed a surprise for many in attendance.
District officials encouraged high attendance by moving the special meeting–on school consolidation plans–to the high school auditorium. They then didn’t allow for any questions or comments from the public. Instead, those in attendance were given an email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, to which they could send their comments on the possible consolidation options.
During a time when the district is weighing some very big moves–albeit because they have to–we don’t think this lack of community participation was the right decision.
If you speak your opinion to someone face to face, you know you’re at least being heard. If you send your opinion to an email address, you have no idea if it will even be read.
People–about 150 of them–came to the auditorium in order to be a part of the meeting, to share input and have a discussion. They felt shut down.
We’re definitely not opposed to the email response system. In fact, we think it’s a great idea. Those who can’t make it to the meetings or who are unlikely to voice their thoughts in a public forum can have a way to be involved. But we don’t think it should be at the exclusion of direct contact with the district board and administration.
Public comments and questions at public meetings can be extremely valuable. Yes, they should be structured. Time limits are absolutely acceptable. But not allowing for any public participation sends the wrong message in a time when we hope the district can come together.
Nobody wants to close schools. Doing so is a financial necessity and we get that. But the district needs to make every effort, not just the most convenient effort or an appearance at an effort, to include the community in the decision-making. Having a meeting to inform them is a wonderful thing. Silencing their voices during that meeting was not.
It seems that the district may have come to this realization as well, announcing that they have now scheduled another meeting this Monday, at which public participation will be welcome. We’re grateful this is happening. It’s the right move, but it shouldn’t have had to require people to give up another evening to get this opportunity. Moving forward, we ask the district to make community input a priority every time.