School Board/Supervisors Work Session Lacks Substance and Debate Worthy of Community
At the March 13th Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board hosted the School Board for a joint work session to discuss the school budget. Several School Board members spoke in support of their budget but the lack of a back and forth discussion was disappointing and raises serious questions about how our elected officials feel about the school budget and what may be the best way to facilitate those more candid discussions in a public forum.
To his credit, Chairman Benton seemed to try in good faith to spark some dialogue, but it failed to garner much traction, at least from the Supervisors, with the exception of Supervisor Yakabouski. Rather than having a back and forth discussion about our children’s education the session was plagued by disjointed statements by various members of each Board.
Supervisor Skinner, traditionally a strong school advocate, was not present due to a previously scheduled trip out of town. Supervisor McLaughlin, for an undisclosed reason, departed the Board meeting following a staff presentation on the County’s Capital Improvement Plan and did not participate in the work session. Supervisor Ross departed the work session halfway through and offered no comment.
This session was on the docket for months and due to the past tensions between the School Board and Supervisors during budget time one would like to believe that our leaders would place a premium on ensuring they were present at this session. These joint sessions have the potential to set the mood for public discourse by allowing them to discuss high-impact issues in a civil manner and set an example on how to engage in honest debate about priorities on school funding. An opportunity was certainly missed with three Supervisors not present.
One positive change was intermingling School Board members and Supervisors by district. Perhaps this dynamic in the future will foster a better sense of community and more fruitful dialogue. However, currently the lack of debate in an open forum between elected officials was disappointing and leaves the community with too many questions where our officials stand on very important budget issues.
The work session in its entirety can be found below.