“If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all,” is instruction I received from my mother early and often as a primer to righteous, Christian living.
If you weren’t sure whether something was “nice” or not, then you applied a simple test: “If you’re embarrassed to say something to somebody’s face then it must not be very nice.”
The Solon school board appears to have adopted a completely different and opposite operating procedure: If we can’t say something nice then let’s go into closed session and say it behind their backs.
It should be noted that Mom’s rules do not stop me from offering the following opinion: I think the Solon School District is top-heavy in administrative personnel. I think the combined salaries of the Superintendent and Curriculum Director are too much for a district Solon’s size. I write it here, and I’d say it to the face of the men holding the jobs. I’d stand up at a public meeting and say it as well.
But then again I was raised a Christian.
Closed sessions are not Christian.
Besides that, closed sessions are stupid.
Just before selling the newspaper nearly a decade ago, the Solon school board was involved in another “closed session” mentality that made a big mess out of something that could have been simple.
The board at the time was looking for a site for the new high school and had its eye on a piece of property owned by a local man. Instead of calling the man up and asking him to come to a meeting to see if a sale price could be reached, the board went into a series of closed sessions to discuss “negotiation strategies.” During these closed meetings all sorts of things were spoken (I know, I am probably the only person alive who listened to all five hours of the tapes after it was ordered that they be released), including many comments that would not have passed “Mom’s rule.”
As I’ve written in the past there are usually three forms of communication in a small town other than the local newspaper (the only one that can be trusted): telephone, television and tell-a-someone at the coffee shop (men) or beauty parlor (women).
Rumors flew like Asian Beetles in September about who said what about whom, and naturally the man who owned the land got his back up.
“Hell, Brian,” the man said to me, “I’m a Solon graduate and my kids are too and I expect my grandchildren will be as well. If they hadn’t gone and said stuff behind my back, I’d have worked with them.”
Before it all was finally settled, quite a few feelings were hurt and attorney fees paid. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed and in the end the school district got its land and the man a fair price.
Government officials using closed sessions are a problem at every level. It goes as high as the U.S. Supreme Court, where television cameras are still denied even as they rule in favor of public access to information. And at every level of government it is simply wrong-headed.
More information is always good, unless you’re raising children.
But I find it extra-objectionable at the local school board level.
First of all, isn’t the job of the school to educate? Isn’t education about giving more information? Aren’t you setting a terrible example?
If the school board had problems with school personnel, they should have been Christian enough – or at least smart enough – to discuss the issues in the open.
Now that they’ve been caught, they ought to come out, hat in hand, apologize and beg forgiveness.
Then the offer should be accepted, and we should all move on.
Fat chance? Hope not for sake of the schools. But is any of this really about the schools?