Subject: Transparency and Accountability
Date: Fri, Dec 7, 2012 at 6:10 AM
I am glad you roped Kristine Chalifoux into coming tonight. 🙂 I am not certain I will be able to make it tonight or not, but I would like to express a couple things on the chance I will be not present at the meeting.
Does the PTA Council think transparency is a good thing? If so, why?
I hope this question does not come across as accusatory or inflammatory – rather I ask by way of opening a discussion. I trust each of you believes that transparency is important. And I know Dr. Wiegand, the district Administration and the School Board all say it is important. So I focus on the second question, “Why?” I believe this is a crucial question to ask because it drives how the community interacts with the school district. And it just so happens that PTAs (and the PTA Council) sit at the juxtaposition.
When an entity makes what it does and why it does what it does publicly and easily understood, it opens the door for the stakeholders to be engaged and involved in the direction of the entity by keeping key members accountable to said direction. Or to put it more succinctly:
“Open government is critical to an informed public, and an informed public is critical to democracy.” – Judith Zaffirini
The purpose is not to lay blame but rather to join forces. So as Ms. Chalifoux, who represents both the Future Facilities Steering Team and a member of the Unit 4 School Board, is with you tonight, I urge you to ask about making both entities (the PE firm and the school district) more transparent. I say this fully acknowledging that Unit 4 is making great strides in this direction; Dr. Wiegand has been very vocal about getting things out in the public eye, and DeJong-Richter has told us on several occasions they plan to be as transparent as possible. Again, I am not looking for a blame game, I am not wagging my finger – I am striving for great collaboration.
How to be more transparent?
The school district has a ton of committees and task forces that we have no idea about; even for those that have an online presence, the information is often outdated and/or piecemeal. There is awesome stuff going on in many of those meetings, but the public has no access to it. Even in area of finances, while the district is doing a good job of getting budget and financial information online, the district fails to make it readily understood by normal people. The School Board policies are yet another example – yes, they are online, but not easy to read. My challenge is that a Unit 4 5th grader should be able to understand the documents; either by making our 5th graders super intelligent or by rewriting the documents in a clearer, more basic language.
Likewise, DeJong has a very trivial wordpress website for the Futures Facilities. For $100+K, it is hard to be satisfied with the website as it is. Where is that money going, how is it being spent (these are “transparency” type questions, btw *grin*)? What about opening up other wordpress features like rss and blogging?
Please consider these things as you speak with Ms. Chalifoux. Also please consider these things when preparing a statement for the December 10th Regular Board Meeting on behalf of the PTA Council.
Bottomline – we all work better when we are on the same page. And we want to work better. 🙂 Great things are afoot and I would love to see more people excited about what is going on.
My sincere thanks to the each of you for your hard work. Please let me know if I may be of assistance in any of these issues.