An open school board

Carroll County: New president, meeting format welcome steps to rebuild public trust in elected body.

January 30, 2001

SUSAN W. KREBS' recent first session as Carroll County school board president demonstrated an encouraging recognition of the need for more openness and public outreach in school affairs.

The teachers' association and the county PTA now have a set place on the monthly agenda to express their views and concerns. That's an overdue measure to expand public involvement.

Another welcome step was allowing board members to engage in conversation with citizens during the public participation segment.

There are clearly limits to the public's role in these official meetings. We don't expect labor contract issues to be raised by the teachers, for example, or a heated exchange between board members and the audience. Referring an audience question to staff for further attention is certainly appropriate.

Long board meetings can also be discouraging, and this month's session lasted more than four hours. Holding two sessions a month, instead of one, could help.

Plans to televise board meetings on the local education cable channel will also expand public awareness. That can encourage questions to the board that can be addressed outside of official meetings.

Opening up the school board's discussions and decision-making process has been a prime priority for the past two years.

The demand for greater citizen input and comment, for more open debate among board members, for harder questioning of the administration -- these are issues that dominated the campaign in last year's school board election.

Ms. Krebs was the dissident, minority voice on the board over the past two years. Now her challenge is even greater -- to foster greater public involvement, while maintaining board responsibility for making the heavy decisions on budget and policy.

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