Creative Proposals to Improve Deliberation Quality

I would love to see a blog on the Newton Public Schools site where School Committee members could explore issues with each other at anytime without having to wait for the formal bi-monthly meeting. The blog would be viewable by anyone with an internet connection but nobody other than a SC member would have posting privileges. This would allow for group exchanges on topics that deserve more airtime and deliberation than is available at the regularly scheduled bi-monthly meetings, while keeping discussion in the public view.

Another means of improving the quality of deliberation might be for School Committee members to meet at some interval outside of the formal meeting structure with cameras off but in a room open to the public, analogous to how subcommittees meet now. The pressure of appearing before the cameras would be off, and colleagues on the School Committee could benefit from participating in a more free-wheeling debate than ever happens on Monday nights.

I recently had an interesting exchange with Katherine Sanderson, one of the two members of the Amherst School Committee who maintains a personal blog that addresses her views on school committee business. Her blog can be found at:

myschoolcommitteeblog.blogspot.com

There is a question about whether a blog like this and even email exchanges between school committee members violate the Open Meeting Law. Katherine’s blog has prompted a review by the MA attorney general’s office, which may soon offer an opinion regarding the legality of this kind of blog used by elected officials. Stay tuned.

It would appear based on my observation of our school committee meetings that the Open Meeting Law is being honored by our elected officials. As evidence, it appears that some important topics deserving of careful discussion and deliberation are being introduced to committee members for the first time in this very public, very agenda-packed meeting setting.