Transparency demands are here to stay. This is certainly not lost on me, nor on many other parents and taxpayers across the country. Rather than stew about it or worry that my actions on the board will somehow raise the ire of some watchdog group, I’m really trying to understand what transparency is and how I can be a positive force in making demands for transparency a positive force in educating me on issues and making everything I do effective, whether or not I’m being watched or not. This is the most basic idea of transparency – that there is a fundamental ethical responsibility to be transparent whether or not someone or some group demands it.
I’ve previously written some initial thoughts on this topic and I continue to read about it. There are some excellent resources on the web and in that arcane format, books. For reference, you only need to search for such topics as “school watchdog”, “school whistleblower”, or “school transparency” to find countless examples of stories and sites that reflect extent to which transparency is on the minds of concerned citizens and in the news media. There are many good issues being explored or exposed. It’s fun and educational reading. And frankly, I’m glad I’m not the focus of some of these groups. (At least, not that I know of.)
But I believe the reason I am not yet is that we have a district that responds quickly to concerns with a free flow of information and data to support questions or concerns. Our leadership “gets it” that to do otherwise is both wrong and dangerous. Most of us know very specific examples where the choice to be or not be transparent resulted in dramatically different results (Think about Watergate, Tylenol, or Toyota). Transparency, honesty, and trustworthiness ALWAYS win the day and, as information becomes easier to distribute, the ease of being transparent removes any rationale against it. (Here I’d like to applaud our Board’s decision to discussion land use strategies openly during public committee meetings. Executive privilege is a right of Boards, not a requirement.)
My main concern with some watchdog groups that I see is that they spend so little time actually researching facts, participating in public discourse, or making themselves a part of constructive improvement — choosing simply to throw stones, which is easy. Their actions seem to cause others to disengage, as well.
America was founded on discourse, debate, and on the transparent sharing of goals and objectives. Any action that causes the public to disengage with their communities or to feel they are being left out is an action that is counter to building the strength and resilience of our community. We HAVE to understand each other’s perspectives and we have to get our facts straight to do so. This begins with transparency, but ends with a goal to share ideas and strategies on what to do about those facts, then to move forward… together.