It sure feels like a new era in the Pasco School District.
Maybe the struggles of the past year have been worth it. From controversy about the process for choosing a new superintendent to an extended teachers’ strike last fall, questions arose about the school board’s and district’s transparency.
It appears the Pasco School Board has taken these concerns seriously and is developing a new strategy so the community can be more involved in the decision-making process.
School board President Scott Lehrman recently announced new guidelines for public meetings. The new format will allow for more interaction between board members and the public, as well as permit attendees to comment on reports from district administrators.
Board members themselves plan to spend more time on matters of student achievement and less on administrative issues, a change to how the board has governed in the past.
The school board’s new direction addresses past criticism, especially that community members were not been given the opportunity to express their views about Pasco schools. That disconnect between the school board and the public fueled frustration. By encouraging a more receptive and open atmosphere at meetings, whatever hard feelings remain in the community should be alleviated in time.
We have called for more transparency from the district, and for the board to make sure it adheres to the state public meeting law.
School board members have made refreshing statements about the recent shifts in board attitude. Lehrman said, “It’s just to continue our efforts as a board to have more two-way dialogue,” and board member Steve Christensen said, “I think we all recognize the need for more community input.”
The board has held community forums, which are an encouraging step, but allowing more time for public comment at regular school board meetings also is important.
The school board is not alone in its efforts to engage the public in matters of Pasco’s school system.
Deputy Superintendent Michelle Whitney also has been holding a Community Conversations series to meet with parents and community members to discuss Pasco schools. She will serve as the next school superintendent when Superintendent Saundra Hill retires this summer.
Her leadership style is one that embraces open discussions and her passion and commitment to Pasco schools are evident in conversations with her. Whitney has worked as a teacher, principal and administrator during her career in Pasco. She has seen first-hand the challenges and the achievements along the way to becoming superintendent, and has experience interacting with staff and parents. It is in her comfort zone.
We’re encouraged all around by the actions of the board and the Whitney. Neither is wasting time in their commitment to be more transparent to those in the district.
In the words of Lehrman, “Anything that increases our stakeholder involvement is good.”
We couldn’t agree more. Thanks for listening and thanks for taking action for a more open district moving forward.