Editorials published by the Goffstown Residents Association are written by various members and contributing non-members of the GRA.

School district cleverly flies under the radar
Little consideration given to keeping the public informed
May 4, 2007

Staying informed about what's going on in our local school district is an important responsibility for everyone in Goffstown.  After all, the school district controls a $33M+ budget - roughly 2/3 of every tax dollar we pay out.  Yet obtaining any information about the school district is a daunting task - and nearly impossible.  To wit:

Have you ever visited the Goffstown School District's web site to review the minutes from their latest meeting?  You can't.  The posted minutes are never from their latest meeting.  In fact, the school board doesn't post meeting minutes until 4 to 6 weeks after a meeting is held.  That means as few as one, or as many as three subsequent meetings are held in the meantime.  Interestingly, other boards and committees in town such as the planning board, budget committee and board of selectmen all post their minutes on the town web site within 3 to 5 days.  But the school district seems to prefer to leave residents in the dark.   

You could always rent a DVD of school board meetings from the town library, right?  Sorry, but you can't do that either.  They are not available at the town library like those of other boards and committees in Goffstown.  In fact, DVDs of school board meetings can only be obtained by submitting a request, in writing no less, to the SAU, which thereafter decides on the validity of your request, then - if approved - forwards the request to GTV and then grants authority to GTV to release the DVD.  Don't try to ask GTV for them directly - they first need authorization from the SAU to "release" them.  

Authorization to release them???  Isn't this supposed to be public information?  Why do citizens of Goffstown need authorization from the SAU to view school board meetings?

And don't hold your breath waiting to get that school board meeting DVD - the average waiting time to receive the requested DVD is five weeks after the request is made.

Ok, so you don't want to wait.  You can always watch a school board meeting live on GTV, right?  Opps, sorry, you're out of luck again.  

School board meetings are not broadcast live because the school board elects to hold its meetings at the high school where, conveniently, there are no facilities for live meeting broadcasts.  Of course, if they held their meetings at Town Hall instead, all the equipment needed for live broadcasts is readily available. 

But that's still OK - you can always watch a replay of the taped school board meetings on GTV-16, right?  

Don't get your hopes up.  

The most recently taped school board meeting to be broadcast on GTV-16 was that of the March 19th meeting (today is May 4th), which was broadcast for the last time on April 1st (and the audio quality was so bad, you couldn't hear what anyone was saying anyway).  In fact, when checking the GTV-16 broadcast schedule, we discovered that there has been NO taped broadcast of ANY school board meeting since that March 19th meeting.  Yet, the school board has held two meetings since that time (a third meeting scheduled for April 16th was cancelled due to the flood).

So, it appears the only way to stay on top of what the school board is doing is to attend the meetings at the high school in person, right?  But wait a minute - if you do, you'll be unable to attend the board of selectmen's meeting, because the school board chooses to hold its twice-monthly meetings on the same night and at the same time as the selectmen do.  

And they do this despite knowledge that they could re-schedule their meetings to the first and third Thursdays of every month when no other town boards or committees hold regularly-scheduled meetings at town hall on those days.

Do you see a pattern here?

School board chairman Keith Allard and SAU superintendent Darrell Lockwood have both publicly professed the need to stimulate public interest and involvement in our local school district.  Yet both continue to perpetuate arbitrary policies and procedures that appear cleverly designed to prevent just that. 

We strongly urge, and demand, that the Goffstown School District immediately take the following steps to promote openness, accountability and public involvement in our school system:

  1. Post school board meeting minutes on the school district web site no later than the first Friday following the most recent meeting, in accordance with the policies and practices of other town boards and committees;
  2. Re-schedule school board meetings to the first and third Thursdays of each month at 7:00 PM - when no other town boards or committees hold regularly-scheduled meetings at town hall on those days - and also move those meetings from Goffstown High School to the Mildred Stark Room on the aforementioned evenings;
  3. Arrange for live broadcasts of your meetings from the Mildred Stark Room on the aforementioned evenings;
  4. Provide GTV with written authority to release school board meeting DVDs to the town library, effective immediately;
  5. Rescind your current policy of requiring a written request by Goffstown citizens for obtaining meeting DVDs.

The school district has cleverly flown under the radar for years, giving little consideration to keeping taxpayers informed, and have continued to operate in near obscurity and virtual autonomy.  

It's time for accountability:  The school district must come clean, and start promoting openness, accountability and public involvement in our school system. 

The GRA urges all residents to contact school board members and the SAU and let your feelings be known.  They can be reached as follows:

Click here for Goffstown School Board contact information

Click here for SAU #19 contact information



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