Letter: Parents, public deserve honesty and transparency

To the Editor:

Transparency is needed when it comes to information about our children, our schools, and when reporting out to parents and community members.

On April 5, the Board of Education Agenda, Regular Reports/Action Items, III. G. stated that a report on Accountability and Assessment & SBAC/CMT and CAPT, Standardized Testing will be presented. However, the report was not available to the public. How, as a member of the community and/or a concerned parent, is one to provide feedback to board members in writing or at public comment if we do not know what is being presented? Do we comment after the fact?

This is not the first time withholding of supplemental information has occurred. The presentation on SAT/AP test results was withheld from the public when the agenda and packet was posted for the BOE meeting on Feb. 2.

Prior to both meetings, I requested a copy of the supplemental information and received responses as, "The item … is in draft form, however, the final copy will be available at the … BOE meeting." The Board of Education Chair, Loretta Chory, refused to allow the posting of the information. She consulted the Board attorney to ensure that she did not have to post any information even though the documents were not of a confidential nature.The Town Charter states that all supplemental materials are to be posted at least 48 hours in advance. It does not distinguish between draft and final reports.

An excelling school district or a lagging school district impacts all, in one way or another. Parents and the public deserve honesty and openness. We do not want information glossed over but expect data that represents our actual position compared to our District Reference Group — our state identified peer group. Without honesty and transparency how do we improve student achievement and determine what essential resources are needed?

If the report is not ready for all community members to have access why place it on the agenda? Why not wait until the next meeting when the report is not in draft form but in its final form. The withholding of any reports, Accountability and Assessment or not, smacks of secrecy, hinders parent participation and most of all places a roadblock to public participation. It is unacceptable to deny the public information and it is against Town Charter rules for this information to be withheld from parents and community members. I ask that the Board of Education stop withholding information from the public and publicly post the information as required.

There is a bit of irony to this — the Board of Education is not accountable to provide the Accountability and Assessment Report. Hmm.
Susan LaFrance