Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Heroes, Supporters and Closed Doors

Photo by Evan Brandt

From left, Superintendent Jeff Sparagana, Michelle Evans
and School Board President Judy Zahora.
Monday night, the Pottstown School Board recognized an every-day hero; recognized the year-after-year help of a partner in education, and failed to recognize that just because you CAN hide something from the public, doesn't mean you have to.

I should say MOST of the board failed to recognize that.

Board member Ron Williams said while he recognizes that the executive session the board held Monday to discuss the fate of Edgewood school is probably not illegal, he still refuses to take part in it.

He refused, he said, because he believes the taxpayers who paid for that school and own that school and property, should have the opportunity and the right to have a say in what happens to that school and property now that it is no longer being used for that purpose.

We (at the Mercury) have some doubts about whether discussions of "should the property be sold, or 'mothballed' or a number of other options" are legally the subject of "executive sessions" which exclude the public.

We tried to put a stop to it at the meeting, noting that the state's Sunshine Law allows a closed-door "executive session" to discuss the "purchase" of real estate, but not the "sale of it," but School Board Solicitor Stephen  Kalis cooly replied that a 2008 court decision made Monday night's session legal.

As I have written here many times before, "legal" and "right" are not synonyms.

And so the initial discussions of "what should we do with Edgewood" went behind closed doors.

The board would like you to think, having excluded you from offering input, that your input will be valued once they have already framed the options, but apparently, they do not want you to hear what the options are

But be re-assured by School Board President Judyth Zahora's exhortation that "I have never suggested that we are anything but transparent."

And in that, I suspect we agree.

Their choice to exclude the public not because they should, but because they can, is entirely transparent. Once they have decided what's best, they'll allow you do agree.

This was a golden opportunity to put truth to that statement. For the board to say: "we have to make a decision. Before we get too far along, tell us what you think."

When we posted the story about the issue on our Facebook page, there were no shortage of opinions.

In fact, more than 115 opinions were posted there. But instead, the default position is: "we can discuss this behind closed doors, so we will. And then tell you how transparent we are."

And they wonder why no one wants to get involved....

Anyway, rant concluded.

Here are the Tweets from what was the very short "public" portion of a meeting by a public agency, about a public property, bought with public funds and whose final disposition will, quite obviously be decided with minimal, after-the-fact input from the public.

1 comment:

  1. Evan, thanks for trying. Kalis is what Kalis does.