March 26, 2013
Decisions without input are against public values
The Issaquah School District’s plan for handling school boundary changes represents the height of arrogance from the administration, and a dodge by the School Board.
Under the policy re-affirmed by the School Board two weeks ago, boundary changes are entirely in the province of the district administration. Since the School Board isn’t part of the process, any committees studying potential changes aren’t subject to open meetings laws.
In the future, as parents at Grand Ridge Elementary School found out recently, parents will get a little note telling them: By the way, your child will be going to a different school next year. You can come and ask questions about it, but we already made the decision and didn’t bother to let you know we were even thinking about the change.
This closing off of the public flies in the face of the openness the district has tried to embrace for the past few decades.
There’s absolutely no good reason not to let members of the public have a seat at the table. District officials simply assume they know best; that they have nothing to learn from the people who actually live in the affected neighborhoods.
Even if parents can’t offer official comments, they should be able to sit in on the meetings so they can understand the issues and the reasons behind the decisions.
Boundary changes are hard. Families sometimes choose a home so they can attend a specific school and feel angry when the attendance lines change.
Yes, parents are usually concerned solely with their own child, while the district has to take a broader perspective about the long-term enrollment patterns. That’s no excuse. Public officials should have an open-door policy when making decisions that impact families.
The School Board may have been right to remove itself from the process, but by washing their collective hands of the decision, they have closed the door on open government.
The board may not need to be a part of the changes, but at the very least, it should mandate that boundary meetings be open to community members.