Here are my thoughts about a few of the issues discussed at the meeting.
We approved a contract for literacy kits for students with special needs. These kits are aligned with the Orton-Gillingham method of reading instruction. We previously approved training in this method, and I am pleased to see the district increase its Orton-Gillingham focus. I believe it is an excellent method of teaching reading.
We hired two new teachers for this year. At the last meeting, we also hired new teachers, and I was hopeful that the previous number of 83 vacancies had gone down with these new hires. Unfortunately, Dr. Long indicated that we now have 88 teacher vacancies. So, we are losing teachers more quickly than we can hire them. Obviously, that is not a good sign for what is to come.
Open Board Meetings
There was a long discussion about opening our meetings to the public. Because this discussion lasted for almost 45 minutes, I will not summarize it here. But you can—and I encourage you to—watch that portion of the meeting at around the 32-minute mark.
Here are a few of my thoughts.
I believe that live-streaming our meetings has been excellent. However, I do not think that live-streaming is a substitute for a meeting open to the public. If we are meeting in public, I think the public should be permitted to attend.
At the end of the day, if the goal is to maximize public participation in our work, we should live-stream (which we now can do) and allow folks to attend in person. That will truly ensure that everyone has the same opportunities. As I pointed out at the meeting, someone without access to the internet cannot provide public comment or view the meetings as it currently stands. I think that’s a problem. On the other hand, live-streaming our meetings ensures that someone who doesn’t have transportation can nevertheless participate in the meetings. And posting the recordings of the meetings (as the district has done for some time) ensures that folks who cannot view the meetings live can watch them later.
I think we have to have a very good reason to close the board meetings to the public. Given that we are holding student activities in the very auditoriums in which we hold our board meetings, I think we can safely conduct our business in the public. Not doing so simply breeds mistrust and raises questions. As always, I believe that the more transparent and inclusive we can be, the better.