** Clarification from author: In reading some of the responses both on Living Snoqualmie and social media, it became evident that one point of clarification is necessary. Marci Busby’s words about preferring questions being withheld during school board meetings was directed at fellow board mates and not members of the public. It is her clearly stated preference that all questions about meeting business be asked of the superintendent after a meeting. Unfortunately, doing this means those discussions would be off the record, a clearly reckless and inappropriate approach. The Superintendent is accountable to the board (and by extension, the public), and asking questions during a meeting is a foundational part of that accountability.
Ms. Busby states the following: “I don’t think that we should do something that would put the district on the spot” When asked when board members can ask questions, she replies “afterwards.” **
[Author: Snoqualmie City Councilmember, Brad Toft. This piece reflects the views of the author.]
The Snoqualmie Valley School District leadership continues its struggle with generally accepted practices of governmental transparency. More evidence came to light during a recent meeting, when Superintendent Joel Aune and Board President Geoff Doy faced requests from fellow board members to provide complete agendas 24 hours prior to meetings. Public meetings statutes require the practice, and boilerplate agendas are in fact being provided. However, they are bereft of specific topics and exhibits to be covered during the meetings.
School board members expressed concern that the limited agendas being provided were not sufficient for them to be adequately prepared. Board members are right to expect complete agendas in advance—as is, t00, the general public—but those concerns were rebuffed. When pressed, the rationale was offered that the superintendent and board president do not want meetings to be disrupted with surprise questions. In an age where the rise of terms like “fake news” have actual meaning, the idea of surprise questions in the context of a public meeting is equally concerning. It advances the idea that any question one does not like is unacceptable to ask. That idea places a dangerous chill on public discourse.
Board member Marci Busby stated that school board meetings are not the place to ask questions. Her position is equally chilling.
One must wonder about certain board member’s naked contempt for transparency and the voting public. Voters elect representatives who will be engaged, not passive observers or rubber stamps. It should be a strategic goal of school district leadership to engage all stakeholders in board meetings and ask the tough questions.
Those in leadership who subscribe to a kind of opaqueness that stifles dissent, need to re-examine their approach. If they will not change their ways, then they should draw challengers when election time comes.