I find myself somewhat puzzled by the process and culture of decision making in our school district. We elect the board members, who in turn select the superintendent. We have a $52 million school budget and an $18 million bond. Recently the board reaffirmed the policy of basically silence by the community at committee meetings — a marked departure from years past. We pay more than ever in our budgets, but we must not speak at these meetings. We can have a chat with the superintendent or participate in a book reading but dare not open our mouths at “working meetings.” There has been a recent effort to reduce the 3-minute time limit on public comments to 2 minutes at board of education meetings. There seems to be something amiss with this process in my opinion.
Seven former board presidents recently suggested a pause on the construction at Hillside given the uncertainty of life during Covid and how events may unfold. No one suggested scrapping the project. Then recently one lone former board president referred to remarks as “unwarranted criticism.” They were voices of “negativity and conservatism.” I would hope that in an open and democratic community different voices could be heard and welcomed. In addition, we were given some predictions on Covid-19 by someone who is not an expert on infectious disease or public health. Also, although we were told that Hillside was “underinvested for decades,” I can not recall in her tenure as president or as a board member any concerted effort to rectify this.
Given the many aspects of different projects and proposals, I would hope that both the board and the community could tolerate and contain — even welcome and allow — these different voices. These opinions are by the same people who cast votes and shop at the same supermarkets presumably. Don’t shut them out or limit them — embrace them as a desire to contribute and participate.