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Transparency: Wood BOE must do a better job with agenda

Late last month, Wood County Schools Board of Education and Superintendent Will Hosaflook gave the appearance of having backed away from an opportunity to demonstrate the necessary courage to carry out a plan that just a few months earlier they said was absolutely necessary to avoid the district falling off a financial cliff. In May, they said necessary action would include the closure of five schools.

In fact, Wood County residents know full well the action that was planned has been necessary for many, many years, and board after board has lacked the intestinal fortitude to carry it out. That is how we ended up so close to a financial cliff in the first place.

Before the July 30 school board meeting, Hosaflook told our reporter (and the agenda made public backed this up) the main portion of the meeting would be to approve personnel changes and hires ahead of the 2019-20 school year. Hosaflook said there would be a brief overview of the district’s planned 2020-30 comprehensive education facilities plan. Sounds harmless enough, right?

In reality, Hosaflook used his report to announce closure and consolidation hearings for THREE schools and four other affected buildings. Van Devender Middle School and Franklin Elementary School have come off the list.

Reasons for such an enormous change of course included “logistics” and that the district’s northern middle schools would be NEARLY at capacity if Vandy’s students were to be moved.

Right. That was the idea. Close some buildings and save money by fully using fewer buildings rather than partially using many buildings. That was precisely the point of the plan proposed in the beginning.

This is the kind of thing that should have been an agenda item. But it is also the kind of thing that would have drawn a lot of public participation in the meeting, and those who drew up the agenda knew it.

Board president Rick Olcott has repeatedly said the district’s business will be conducted in an open and transparent manner. Hiding a discussion item of that magnitude in a superintendent’s report is rather the opposite.

There is a special meeting today at 10 a.m., reportedly to approve personnel changes. There is a regular meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

We hope those who draw up the agendas understand the mistake made last month and are working to correct it. Anything less than true transparency is unacceptable.

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