School board should reconsider actions

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 17, 2001

With one quick vote, the Natchez-Adams School Board cloaked itself in secrecy Thursday by using an obscure policy which allows the board to keep executive session work under wraps.

This means the board can make decisions about the future of our public school system, and the public won’t know the details for up to 30 days later.

The immediate reason for this action is unclear; it serves no positive purpose that we can see, and we think the board should reconsider.

The only answer to &uot;why&uot; has been, &uot;because we can.&uot;

The purpose of having an executive session in the first place is to limit the public’s access to information which could be harmful to either ongoing litigation or to protect the privacy of an employee. And typically board members publicly announce generalities about the executive session as soon as the potentially damaging discussion is complete.

Now, however, board members won’t release the information to the public, but will instead make it available only through the minutes of the meeting – which do not have to be completed until 30 days following the meeting.

Executive sessions have a place and are needed, but often we fear they become a way for public officials to circumvent the law by keeping some matters in the dark.

Many people do not realize it, but the Natchez-Adams School District is one of the largest employers in the county. And the school board has responsibility for a budget that is often four times that of the City of Natchez.

The school board members have a huge responsibility. A large part of that responsibility is keeping its customers – tax payers&160;- informed on how it spends their money.

While hiding behind long legal delays before information is distributed may sound like a good thing, in fact, the best route is always telling the whole truth as quickly as is possible.