Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Walk Right In

Here I am all flabbergasted at finding out Dr. Steve Gallon III, the newly appointed superintendent, is a Plaintalker reader.

The appointment was yet another "walk-in" item, meaning the printed agenda available at the Plainfield Public Library over the weekend did not include the resolution appointing the new superintendent. This meant that the public, the press and the bloggers all had to be on tenterhooks Tuesday to see whether the appointment would surface.

A person posting on the Plainfield forum took umbrage at this state of affairs, and well he or she might. In recent months, many newsworthy items have emerged as "walk-ins," last-minute resolutions passed out at board meetings after all other business has been concluded.

I did not cover school board meetings closely when the blog started in 2005, so maybe I missed something, but it seems to me this is a new development. I was the last citizen on hand June 8 when the board approved Peter E. Carter as interim superintendent and my curmudgeon level had increased dramatically by the time the news came out. Since then, board meetings at which there may be significant breaking news by way of walk-ins have tried my patience to the max.

Erik Darling and the Rooftop Singers are credited with the folk song, "Walk Right In," and here are the Janis Joplin lyrics. "Daddy, let your mind roll on" may have been a significant imperative in those hazy days, but now we want information ASAP with no mind-rolling. Once I sit right down at a school board meeting, I want the facts - all of them. There still must be votes, but why leave some surrounded by the purple haze of walk-ins?

If the board really wants more community engagement, perhaps members should rethink the value of transparency versus last-minute revelations. On Tuesday, the crowd had thinned out considerably by the time Dr. Gallon took the microphone to address the public. The electric quality of the announcement was shared by only a few of those who might have wanted to be there for the historic moment.

--Bernice Paglia


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