7 Ways the WCASD Board Should Model Transparency
The school board should have provided public access to the resumes and application materials that were submitted by each applicant. The district previously stated that these documents would be public record, yet when this author inquired about the documents via email, the district responded that they would not be providing the materials. (This forced a Right to Know request to be submitted to the district in order to get the materials. The school district spent a portion of the March 20 meeting complaining about the cost of RTKs but then turned around and refused to provide materials, thus forcing more RTKs.)
The board should have allowed each applicant 3-5 minutes to present their skillset to the board and to the public. One applicant signed up to make public comment in order to present her skills to the board. (The same applicant had a number of supporters speak on her behalf.) The public needed to hear from ALL applicants, not just one. By not giving all candidates an opportunity to speak, one particular applicant's voice was unfairly amplified over all others.
The board could have either allowed all ALL candidates to speak, or NONE of the candidates to speak. Have you ever taken a multiple choice test? When test takers design a test, there are three possible answers: the correct answer, the incorrect answer, and the answer that is meant to confuse you so that you think it's the answer. The board gave us a multiple choice test when they allowed three candidates to speak. The board appeared to position their preferred candidate (right answer), against his polar opposite (wrong answer), alongside a candidate who was meant to obfuscate the situation. The Back to Basics school board candidates are advocates for transparency and would not have been supportive of zero candidates speaking. We use this example to illustrate that the board failed to show the public why they allowed only three people to speak. (See number 6 below.)
The board could have allowed ONLY candidates who are running for school board (*Alex Christy, Bob Rafetto, Nick Spangler) to speak. Three of the ten people who applied for the vacancy are already running for school board and will be on the ballot in May and November. It would have made sense to give a voice to all three and to appoint someone who has already done the work to get on the ballot. But by allowing ONLY Alex Christy to speak, and subsequently appointing him, he will now be an incumbent on Election Day, which gives him an advantage over the other candidates.
The board could have allowed only NON CANDIDATES to speak. If the board wanted to appear a-political, they could have appointed someone who is not currently in the ballot, someone wit no political aspirations. It would have made sense for the board to choose a placeholder to fill the vacancy until the voters had the opportunity to choose school board members at the polls.
The board should have used a rubric for scoring the applicants, as well as their application materials, and the board should have shared the rubric with the public in advance. Without a rubric, it is unclear how and why three candidates were chosen to speak and one candidate was chosen (of the three) to be appointed. Without a rubric, personal bias can influence opinions and outcomes. Without a rubric, personal relationships can cause a candidate to be fast-tracked to the board, with the public being none the wiser.
The board secretary could have redacted the names of the applicants on the answer portion of the application. This, coupled with the use of a rubric, could have resulted in an unbiased assessment of each candidate's answers, would have given the public confidence that the board was treating each applicant with fairness, and this would have been a more transparent way of filling the vacancy.
Obviously transparency is not always prudent or possible, particularly where legal issues are concerned. However, school boards can and should be transparent when possible. This should include board dialogue at public meetings so that the public can understand how and why decisions are made, even if the details of surrounding the decisions need to remain private.
It appears that our board does not value transparency. This is why it is imperative to elect five new faces to the school board on May 16, 2023. Our candidates are committed to modeling transparency as elected officials.
*Alex Christy does not appear to have a campaign page. Perhaps that is because he has already been appointed to the board and thus assumes that he won't need to campaign?