Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Kuna school board could be more open

A couple of months ago, the Kuna school district unveiled its newly redesigned website. It’s a very attractive site with a lot of new bells and whistles. You can check it out at The folks who worked on it clearly did a very good job, and they should be commended.
However, I would like to see the district take it just one step further in the interest of open government. One of the district’s stated goals in redesigning the website was to provide better communication with the public. That’s why I’d like to see the district do a better job of posting their school board agendas and their minutes on the website.
You have to click through a couple of times to find out that the school board meetings are on the second Tuesdays of each month. But I think this could be improved to put the actual date of the next board meeting. I’d also like to see it on the home page, right up front, without having to click through two or three times into the site. After all, the school board should be the number one interaction between the public and the school district.
Currently, there are no agendas even posted on the district’s website. Agendas are not finalized generally until the Thursday before the meeting, which means I am not able to publish the agenda in the issue of the Kuna Melba News before the meeting. As the owner of the local paper, I get a copy of the agenda faxed to me, but surely, it’s not practical to fax the agenda to 9,200 households in the school district. How can school district patrons find out what’s happening at the next school board meeting and whether they should attend or not?
Next, you may recall that a couple of years ago, I wrote a couple of editorials urging the city of Kuna to post all of their City Council “packet” documents online. I was happy to report that shortly thereafter, the city began posting all of those documents on their website, giving residents an opportunity to learn more about what was going to be discussed at the upcoming meeting and to follow along with the council members during the meeting.
Before, a council member would say, “On Page 3 of 12, Section III, letter a., it states…..” Members of the audience could only guess at what they were talking about. Now, any member of the public can print out the documents at home, then come to the meeting to keep up with the discussion. This move saved the city money. That’s because every week, I would request my own copy of the City Council packet, which the city provided to me as the owner of the local paper. Now, the city doesn’t spend a drop of printer ink on me, because I print out the packet myself from my office.
Currently, I file a public records request every month with the Kuna school district requesting a copy of the school board packet. When I show up at the meeting, there it is waiting for me, so that I can follow along and refer back to the documents when I’m writing a story. If the district were to post their packet online, not only would they not have to print out a copy for me, they would be making the documents available to every single resident in the school district.
So how about it, school board? Do you want the Kuna school district to be more open and accessible to the patrons? If so, this would be a good first step.

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