I’ve been hearing for about a week now, that Candidate for School Committee, Dr John Kelly, had asked the Superintendent’s office for a copy of some information that had been distributed to School Committee members weeks ago, but for some reason declared “confidential” and not made public.
Now, I understand that the fact is that any documents distributed to the committee members that do not fall into the few legal exemptions to the open meeting laws for executive session must be made public.
What he has asked for, repeatedly, was the summaries of the budget options and the possible outcomes of each option that had been prepared for the board to work from. This is the board that is elected to represent us.
After making another formal request, and seeing no response once again last night, Dr Kelly has forwarded to me a copy of a “letter to the editor” that he sent the Lowell Sun last week showing his frustration at the lack of transparency and respect being shown a parent and citizen.
By this point, even redacted data could have been made public if there was some information that could not be made public.
For your consideration:
During the 2010 Level 3 District Review of the Dracut Public School System, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education found there to be a “lack of transparency of school finances.” By the state’s definition, Level 3 Districts are “districts whose students achieve at low levels either in absolute terms or relative to districts that educate similar populations.” It has been two years and we are still a Level 3 District.
Despite this, the administration office still considers some budgetary documents to be “not ready for public presentation.” The secret document in question, which outlines the proposed budget cuts for FY13, has been shared with select individuals, but the School District continues to ignore and deny my requests to make this information fully public. The School District is asking Dracut residents to increase its budget, without offering a full explanation of costs and expenses. Asking for more money, at this point, is simply a bail-out.
As a father of five, I would like to see the quality of education improve. As a tax-payer, I’d like to know where and how our money is being spent. Asking Dracut residents for another tax increase, without knowing what the money is for, is irresponsible. We need transparency and a legitimate plan – not one that changes with every political whim.
Dr. John Kelly
Candidate for Dracut School Committee
Note that he gives more creedence to the state NCLB review than I do, but I do agree that at this point in the budget process especially, transparency and openness with the community is of paramount importance.
It is not the role of the administration to hide or control the release of public information. Unless its in executive session, all information provided the school committee should be considered public and provided upon request.