Transparency Rarely Honored

Being the lone voice in the wilderness is not easy. We all have our beefs with public officials and public boards, but most of us confine ourselves to yelling at the TV, complaining to family and friends, and composing letters we end up throwing away.

For whatever reason, however, our school boards have generated enough upset lately that people have left the comfort of anonymity and spoken up, only in most cases to be treated with a minimum of respect and a maximum of discounting.

And that’s a problem.

If every board’s sole function was to be a rubber stamp to its administrator, and every board’s attitude was that it knows best and residents be damned, then there would be little to say. But nowhere is it written that every board member must think alike on every issue.

As we’ve said before, the way the Timberlane School Board treats fellow member Donna Green of Sandown reminds us of nothing but the playground. Green probably asks too many questions; it’s often better to pick your battles and let some issues wait their turn. But she has the right – and the duty – to ask questions, and maybe more importantly, to expect timely answers.

Now the nastiness has spread to Hampstead, where a resident advised the board in strong terms that it should under no circumstances consider hiring a public relations staffer, as Timberlane plans to do. The letter was emotional, but calling it a threat that elicits fear is going way too far, and the board’s response was a threat of its own. Memories of the playground surface once again.

In Londonderry, a resident has taken matters into his own hands by going to the state after his plea to have a bus stop moved was turned down by the board, with some questions flippantly unanswered.

And in Derry, a few people won’t let die the decision to move the Next Charter School from one middle school to another. They continue to ask the same questions, perhaps expecting to finally get a different answer. That’s frustrating for all concerned. Sometimes the answer remains one that the questioner doesn’t like, but this board at least provided an explanation.

Residents and board members should not be opposing armies. If someone takes the time to question an action, that should be respected. Going tit for tat gets nowhere, and only serves to make those in power look like they’re throwing their weight around rather than dealing with the issues. And in the midst of it all, transparency remains a word easily tossed about, rarely honored.

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