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EDITORIAL: Public evaluations are best for students

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By The Staff

It’s impossible to even begin doubting state Rep. Kent Stevens’ sincerity when he discusses his passion for doing what’s right for Kentucky’s students.

Stevens claims that his vote to overturn a long-standing law that requires school boards to evaluate superintendents in public is for the “betterment of students,” but on that count we disagree.

Instead, allowing school board members to discuss their thoughts about a superintendent in private does nothing to serve students, their parents or the taxpayers who keep schools afloat.

Instead, students, parents and taxpayers are much more likely to be harmed when the people elected to watch over the superintendent of their schools are allowed to discuss his or her performance behind closed doors.

As a community, we deserve nothing less than to hear frank, honest and open discussions from each and every school board member when it comes to their thoughts on the superintendent. A watered down summary of the board’s overall opinion is not an acceptable substitute because we elect school board members individually, not as a group.

Not hearing directly from each of them doesn’t allow us to ensure we have chosen the best school board members, that they have chosen the best superintendent, and that we are getting the biggest bang for our ever-increasing education bucks.

Each of the above factors is much greater than sparing a superintendent’s feelings or providing cover for mousy school board members afraid to publicly say their piece.

During a recent House Education Committee hearing, member after member voiced support for allowing secret school board discussions. Several, including Stevens, made comments about the press and their unease at the prospect of critical statements about superintendents being published.

It’s easy to vilify the press or cry foul that someone’s dirty laundry is being scrubbed clean via a public airing in the local newspaper.

But folks, this isn’t only about a reporter scribbling notes during a school board meeting, or a trouble-making editor slapping a scurrilous headline atop a scathing story full of juicy quotes about the local school superintendent.

This is also about parents and taxpayers who have every right and an obligation to listen to these comments and make their decisions accordingly.

Believe it or not, it’s also about the teachers who serve our schools. They, too, have a right to know what our elected officials think about the person atop their food chain, both good and bad.

Democracy can be a messy thing, but it operates best when the people called on to vote fully understand the issues and can hold accountable those they’ve entrusted to make decisions that affect their lives.

This change in Kentucky’s open meeting regulations is a blow to that process, and our children are the ones who will ultimately pay the price.

Comment at www.theandersonnews.com.