To the editor:
What should the taxpaying public expect from its school board, as well as from its municipal government?
Simply put, it’s to be treated in a “good faith” manner. Based on two issues – the financial advantages of school consolidation, one school pre-k through grade eight instead of two schools with two staffs, with an enrollment that continues to decline significantly, and the board’s contract with the Brigantine Education Association, now past its expiration date – the Brigantine Taxpayers Association doesn’t believe that acting in good faith has been, and is, taking place on the part of the Brigantine Board of Education.
At the board’s Jan. 28 meeting we made the following comments on these two topics.
1. “Last month, Superintendent Pruitt, your appointee, presented his report on school consolidation. You had authorized this report more than 11/2 years earlier. You didn’t discuss or vote on his report. We now ask the same question we asked in this week’s Beachcomber News. What is your position on this report in which the superintendent recommends keeping the two-school status quo?”
2. “At the last City Council meeting, a teacher addressed mayor and council on the delay in settling the contract and asked for their help in getting the job done. She was correct in bringing this matter to council. The mayor appoints the school board, and three council members are on the Board of School Estimate, which votes on the school budget. Her request was ignored with a single thank you from the mayor. This isn’t surprising, but it is irresponsible. Those who live here and pay taxes here have a right to know the issues holding up a new public contract. What are these issues?”
With regard to school consolidation, the board president responded that no action could be taken “during public comment” (obviously), and that the report was only a “recommendation.” Again, there was no discussion and no vote. There was also no commitment to any future action on the superintendent’s report. It appears that this whole business was a show intended to placate and silence public voices and accomplish nothing.
Regarding the teachers contract, the BTA hasn’t taken a position on the contract because we don’t know the issues in the dispute. Neither party has said anything. We’re familiar with the questionable argument that the public may legally be denied all knowledge. And if any is revealed before a contract is settled, it makes the public a party in the negotiations. Transparency is not just a fine word. It’s a positive practice. In this case, general areas of conflict should be identified so that the public can evaluate the merits of both positions.
Keeping the public ignorant may be convenient, but the consequences are negative. Respecting the public’s interest and rights is acting “in good faith.”
Anne H. Phillips
President, Brigantine Taxpayers Association