Thursday, November 20, 2008

Secret quasi-governmental meetings held near Robbinsdale

The kids in the Grandview Elementary playground are ducking the black helicopters...and the Rapid City Journal is reporting this morning about a yet another breach of confidence with the public by the Rapid City School Administration.

The Rapid City Journal is getting all high and mighty, and clearly is trying to make themselves the story. Pathetic, if you ask me:

Journal challenges school board committee on closed-door meeting
Group to make recommendations to board on school finances

The committee, a panel of local financial and business leaders, began meeting in private over the summer and is scheduled to make recommendations to the Board of Education in December.

The Rapid City Journal asked to attend and cover tonight's meeting, but committee chairman Dennis Popp declined to open the meeting, saying he would have to take the request to committee members.

First, a digression on the Journal's reporting...

Yes, the RCJ is grandstanding a bit here, especially because, honestly, if the meetings WERE open, their single (good but very green) reporter Gehagan probably wouldn't have the resources to cover the meetings, and it would be up to concerned members of the public (and there are many) to attend and get the story for themselves. I think we need a more active local blogosphere and alternative press (c'mon, Weekly News!), because the RCJ is very selective about what they print, and they love to beat up on our school administrators and board.

And ya wonder why folks won't run for city council or school board: the RCJ is a big reason -- case in point the public flogging and exile of Councilman Hurlbut. The RCJ missed a great opportunity to educate the public on the DUI problem and instead led the chorus to burn him at the stake. Hey, it sells papers.

But, they are right: closed meetings about the local school budget without public discussion beforehand are waaaay out of line.

I'm pretty mad about this if the facts bear out that Wharton approved setting up these meetings in private. If the board was complicit, or if they weren't, and won't fire Wharton over this or at least give him a serious censure I'd be for a referendum of no confidence (or recall if it's legal) of the entire school board. You can do a closed meeting but you need to ask the public first, or at least the school board in a public meeting.

My response may sound drastic but I firmly believe that we can't afford this controlling superintendent in this tough budget environment. Sure have a closed meeting, but tell us what you're doing (business/community focus group. whatever). Don't do it in secret when you are already on the ropes for trying to keep your school board from talking to their constituents.

This is especially unforgivable in a fiscal environment where tough choices have to be made.

But, let's not forget the root of our dysfunctional school administration issues: Pierre!

Not that removing Wharton would solve the problems, just maybe open the doors to a better working relationship with the community. We should not lose sight of the main root of this adversarial environment, which the RCJ continues to ignore: a state Legislature that won't fix a broken tax system, and seem to regard education as a cost and a threat to good conservative values, and live in denial of the economic damage done by not investing in our children.

We failed in November 4 on this score... we had really great choices for legislators, but we didn't elect them to go to Pierre and fix this mess--we sent the same 'ol back there to do what the Governor tells them to do: education on the cheap, funded by regressive property taxes that punish middle and low income people the most. When will we learn?

1 comment:

  1. You're being so hard on the secretive government crowd. The people don't deserve to know how their funds are spent. The money belongs to the government in South Dakota...all the money. Sure, they'll give you some lip about freedom or income taxes, etc, but the truth is that South Dakota government just doesn't want anybody to know what it does and how it does it. It would be unDakotan to allow the people a voice in government. And the Rapid City Journal, well, you're just so hard on them. They wouldn't know what to do with a Woodward or a Bernstein if they showed up on the doorstep. They probably would have them lay under the Sixth Street Bridge until something happened they could report their own deaths.
    And heaven forbid the Journal would ever report on crime of any kind...names, dates, times...unless it happened 12 months ago and wasn't important.
    Really, you must be easier on our various estates...3rd or 4th. They're only the best that mediocrity has to's South Dakota after all...nobody has any high expectations here for anything or anybody. And just a reminder...quit being perfect. You live in Robbinsdale after all.