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School board should create new communications policy

December 08, 2000

School board should create new communications policy



Last week the Washington County Board of Education's members took the first step toward enacting a policy that, for them, would be a revolutionary step. They decided to try to enact a policy that would allow them to respond face-to-face to those who come before them with concerns.

It's a long overdue start on a communications policy that would make the board's members seem more like public servants than royalty silently listening to the concerns of commoners.

We won't waste space here on the flaws in the board's previous approach. They've decided to move forward and do so with our blessings, and a few suggestions, including:

- Take a cue from the Washington County Commissioners, who have plenty of experience in this area. If the board can't deal with a citizen's concern immediately, it's referred to a department head. And to the occasional person who comes to the bard to rant and rave, the board listens politely, after which the commissioners' president says, "Thank you for your input."

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- Follow the suggestion of Mary Wilfong, a school board member, to have each person who appears before the board get a written acknowledgment. To that we'd add that the letters citizens get should detail what's going to be done about the issue they raises, and who they should follow up with.

- Appoint a communications director to replace Donna Meson, who recently left the school system for a job with the City of Hagerstown. Such a person is needed to coordinate communications between the board and citizens and follow-up on the concerns they express.

(Such a person should also be strong-willed enough to demand that the board inform the public immediately when, for example, a student has been the victim of a sexual assault.)

But that's an issue for another editorial. The school board should do this quickly, even though it will be extra trouble, because the better its communications with parents and potential business partners, the more support it will get from the community at large.

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