[UPDATE 7/7/11: As announced in today's Republican-American, the format for the July 18 forum has been changed due to public demand. Anyone in attendance will be allowed to ask questions of the three candidates.]
The search for and hiring of the next Superintendent of the Waterbury schools has been an increasingly hot-button topic. On June 29, the Republican-American ran an article with the headline "School chief search: Don't ask." In the article, we were informed that the final hiring decision will be made public on August 8 and that there will be a public forum on July 18 at which only a select few will be allowed to ask questions of the three finalists. Nowhere in the article was information about how the members of the public who will be allowed to speak will be chosen, just a passing mention of having already chosen people who had previously expressed interest.
At tonight's Board of Education meeting, it was announced that anyone who wants to meet with the three candidates and ask them questions at the July 18 meeting should leave their name with the Board of Ed at the end of tonight's meeting, or call the Board of Ed office first thing tomorrow morning. Letters informing people that they have been selected to ask questions will be mailed out tomorrow (Wednesday).
This was the first I had heard of this process. I double-checked with some friends who have been following more closely than I have, and they knew nothing about this either. I checked the Board of Ed webpage and the public schools' website. Nothing.
Those of us in attendance tonight were somewhat tersely reprimanded for not showing up to earlier meetings to discuss the hiring of the Superintendent, and we were somewhat tersely reprimanded for complaining that the hiring process has not been public enough. There may not have been any intention to keep information from the public, but that definitely is what has happened.
We live in an age of amazing communication. Many of us spend a ridiculous amount of time online and expect to be able to get whatever information we need from the internet. I even stopped buying printed newspapers years ago and have online subscriptions instead. Between blogs, Facebook, Twitter and the city's website, there are many easy ways in which the public can be accurately informed and updated. They are also good ways to engage the public more.
If the public tells you that you haven't been keeping them informed, maybe it's time to update your communication methods.
If you would like to ask questions at the July 18 forum, call Carrie Swain at 203-574-8009 tomorrow, Wednesday, July 6. After that, it will apparently be too late.