COLUMBIA, 8/26/10 (Beat Byte) -- Surprise!
With less than one day's notice for public input, the Columbia Public School Board this morning unanimously approved the highest tax hike in recent years legally-allowed without a district-wide vote.
Their meeting started at 7:30 am and the Missourian reported the news only 45 minutes later. As of press time yesterday afternoon, only school district financial director Linda Quinley (below) and superintendent Chris Belcher (left) had issued public opinions on the levy increase.
Given the lack of timely notice -- the district issued a press release announcing this morning's public hearing less than 24 hours before the meeting -- it was a move in the secretive mode of former Columbia Public Schools (CPS) superintendent Phyllis Chase that could wound a sore public trust Belcher had been doing his earnest best to heal.
What's more, School Board members normally meet on Monday evenings. Special morning meetings, though they invite public comment, aren't nearly as well-attended, well-advertised, or well-covered in the media.
Into just the first week of school, and right as the school day started, to convene a meeting of such public importance sends a troubling mixed message. On the one hand, the school district greatly encourages parental involvement, engaged teachers, and thoughtful students.
But with this move, top district administrators and School Board members flatly discouraged thoughtful, engaged involvement. Shame on them for essentially circumventing the community's most important voices -- its people.
Last two school board meetings (June)