Douglas County Schools Superintendent Trent North announced Monday a new format for Board of Education meetings that will include a dedicated work session meeting and a voting meeting each month. The announcement is welcome news for many taxpayers who have for years wanted to see more transparency from the local school board.
North said at Monday's school board meeting that what has been lacking in the current system is discussion and dialogue among school district staff and school board members. The change to a dedicated work session meeting each month should address this.
"The school board is tasked with developing policy, a strategic plan for the district and charting direction for the school system," North said. "To do so effectively there is a need for dialog among cabinet members, teachers and directors. Work sessions are for questions and answers -- probing back and forth."
For as long as anyone can remember at this newspaper, there has been little or no discussion between school board members, the superintendent and his cabinet.
We have been present at more meetings than we can count over the past several years where the school board approved spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money with no discussion among the school board and school system staff, leaving us with the impression the BOE was just rubber stamping expenditures and other decisions recommended by the superintendent and his cabinet.
We applaud North and the BOE for taking steps to be more transparent with the new dedicated work sessions where we expect the public will be able to hear the BOE, North and his staff discuss key decisions that affect our teachers and students as well as how and why taxpayer money is being spent.
Additionally, we want to commend North and the BOE for quickly righting a wrong last week. At Monday's meeting, North said that public comments wouldn't be allowed at the new dedicated work session meetings. By Thursday, the school system had reversed course, announcing it would continue to allow public comments at all regular meetings including work sessions.
North said in a statement he values community involvement in the school system.
"The intent of going to a work session model was not to reduce interaction between the school system and the public, but to increase communication between the staff of the school district and the board members," North said. "Although we do not typically have many requests for public comment, we will continue to allow the community to have this opportunity at all meetings and work sessions. In addition, I encourage citizens to use the many additional opportunities to express opinions and ideas through electronic communication, phone calls, and meetings with teachers, school administrators, the superintendent, and board members. We value input from our community and will continue to do so."
The public is best served by openness, accessibility, transparency and amenability. We commend North and the Board of Education for taking steps to be more transparent and for continuing to allow taxpayers to speak to their elected representatives on the school board at every opportunity possible.
We look forward to hearing the dialogue and discussion at upcoming work session meetings. The good faith North has shown in his first few months on the job give us every reason to believe he'll stay true to his word.