Cheers & Jeers

September 3, 2012

Cheers and Jeers: Sept. 3, 2012

CHEERS to Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School for finally providing full agenda information for its School Board meetings. And all it took was a more responsive superintendent.

The Press-Republican has been in a years-long faceoff with ELCS over what information was provided to the public about upcoming board meetings. While every other school in the North Country sends in meeting notices that list specific agenda items, all the Press-Republican received from ELCS was the basics: time, date and location.

When pressed for more details to provide to the public, the school would sometimes list “personnel discussions” or “routine business.” Editor Lois Clermont, during the years she was news editor, emailed and called the school numerous times to try to persuade officials to provide more information. We feel it is part of our duty at the newspaper to make sure the public is informed about what is happening in their schools, and it irritated us to no end to see such reluctance on the school’s part.

Former School Superintendent Dr. Gail Else made all kinds of excuses why the school couldn’t release more information: The agenda wasn’t ready early enough, she said. (We said we would take it the day before, if necessary, though every other school in the area seems to be able to provide agenda items in advance). She said she wasn’t sure the School Board wanted the information released. (We found it hard to believe the board members would not want taxpayers to have advance notice about discussion involving their money.) The school earned itself a Jeer a few years back for this very issue. Still, Else did not take the initiative to see that the more agenda details were released.

Now, she is gone. And suddenly, the Press-Republican is receiving full lists of items planned for discussion. The reason? A. Paul Scott, former superintendent for Peru Central School, is serving as interim leader for the district. He knows how important it is that taxpayers have information about their schools. It helps parents be more aware of developments that affect their children, and it allows community members who don’t have kids in the district to see how their money is being put to use.

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Cheers & Jeers
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