Our View: Proper notice of public meetings is crucial for citizen participation

 

 

 

There is likely no better example of self-governance than your local school board. 

 

It is a body of local citizens chosen by their fellow citizens to set policy and oversee operations of the schools we send our children to and pay taxes to support. School board meetings are open to the public for a good reason. These are our schools and we have a right - some say an obligation - to know and participate. 

 

That is why there are state open meeting laws that ensure the right of citizens to attend meetings held by local government entities, including school boards. With a few exceptions, the business of a school district should be not be handled behind closed doors. 

 

Unfortunately, the Lowndes County School District Board of Trustees hasn't seemed to agree lately, most recently Monday. 

 

Some school board meetings are more important than others, and Monday's meeting certainly fits into the "very important" category. 

 

It was held to discuss and adopt criteria for the selection of the school district's next superintendent. The term of the current elected superintendent, Lynn Wright, will expire in December. Under new state law, school superintendents are chosen by the school board rather than through an election. 

 

Unfortunately, the board's only effort to inform the public of this meeting was to place a notice on the front door of the district's office complex. 

 

That's tantamount to a tree falling in a forest: No one was likely to hear it.  

 

The LCSD's office complex is located on a hill off Highway 45 South, about a mile from the Highway 82 interchange. There are no other buildings within a quarter-mile of the office. The only people who would have seen the notice are those who had business at the district office. We would venture to say that virtually no citizens were aware of the meeting at all. 

 

State laws concerning meeting notices require the public boards to post notice of a special meeting an hour before it begins. In addition to the physical notice, the public body must post notice on its website and provide a copy of the notice to local media, again at least one our before the meeting starts. The LCSD did neither of these. 

 

Was this a deliberate attempt to keep citizens in the dark about how the board will choose its next superintendent? Certainly, it's understandable that some might draw that conclusion. 

 

More charitably, it could have simply been a case of someone "dropping the ball." 

 

We hope that's what happened in respect to Monday's meeting. 

 

We will know the answer to that question by how the board chooses to inform the public of future meetings. 

 

School board members often make the plea for citizens to support their schools through their participation in school events. 

 

These board meetings are school events, too. Let's hope the LCSD board is as enthusiastic about that citizen participation when it comes to their board meetings.

 

 

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