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Kathleen Moore's Behind the story
by Kathleen Moore

Behind the story

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SCOPE wins some initial victories

By Kathleen Moore
Tuesday, May 25, 2010

In the very first brush between the new way and tradition, school board members endorsed by the grass-roots Schenectady Citizens for Openness in Public Education took home their first small victories.

New Schenectady Board of Education member Ron Lindsay insisted that the public receive copies of the survey filled out by voters after last week’s budget vote.
The survey asked voters why they opposed or supported the budget.

Board President Maxine Brisport said she had planned to keep the survey secret until next week at the very least, because she hadn’t had enough time to read the results.

Lindsay said he didn’t mind waiting to discuss the results — but he insisted that the public get to look at the survey immediately.

“If you’re asking the public to do the survey, the public has a right to the result,” he said.

When Brisport disagreed, he told her that the new board members had been elected on a pledge of transparency.

“We’re trying to be more open,” he declared.

I got a copy of the survey that night, so I’d say he won that one.

Another SCOPE member, Andrew Chestnut, also fought for his campaign promises right away, coming out swinging on budgetary issues.

But he also took a step toward a seemingly minor promise of a group therapy session for district employees. Frankly, I was sure that one would end up on the “forgotten” list.

When Brisport said communication problems in the district are not real — just perception — he corrected her at once.

He told her that school employees told him they felt “inhibited” and afraid to report problems or complain.

“The people I heard this from did not strike me as delusional,” he said pointedly.

And, he said, the problem won’t go away unless the board takes specific action — which he then outlined.

Among the necessary actions, he said, is a public session where employees can tell their stories while the school board listens. That would begin to heal their wounds, he said.

The culture might have to change, however, before employees will be willing to publicly complain and criticize their bosses.

Kathleen Moore covers Schenectady city government and the city school district for The Daily Gazette. Reach her at 395-3120 or by e-mail at moore@dailygazette.com.

 

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