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District Transparency

Let the sun shine IN!

In addition to open government being the law, it just plain makes sense to show one's constituents that everything you are doing as a publicly elected official is above-board. When in doubt, err on the side of transparency. Assume the public has a right to know absent a clear law stating otherwise.

If I am elected to the school board, I will not be conspiring with private sector attorneys to come up with ways to thwart our state's Public Records Act or work around it. I will instead abide by the direction and guidance of the Washington State Attorney General  and Open Government Ombudsman if and/or when the need for consultation arises.

In addition to promising my full support to fulfill both the spirit and the letter of our state's open government laws, I would also strive to make the following Everett School District practices more transparent and open in the following ways:

School Board Meetings:

-- Make copies of draft minutes of board meetings available immediately upon conclusion of the meeting, if requested. Thanks to modern computers, printing out a copy of the draft minutes can be accomplished in seconds. The board can delegate this responsibility to the individual taking notes to comprise the draft of the official minutes, who can easily query the audience to see if anyone would like copies of the draft minutes before the building is closed.

-- Make both audio and video recordings of all board meetings. Make all recordings publicly available by noon the next business day via download on the District's website. Again, with modern technology such as mp3 audio and mp4 video, providing a record of the District's business is both cheap and easy, as well as the right thing to do.

-- The Board should voluntarily record all Executive Sessions. This ensures that should the need arise to question the legality of an Executive Session, the public will have a means to verify whether what was discussed in Executive Session fell within the bounds of the law.

Public Records:

-- Adopt an official school board policy which encourages compliance with the Public Records Act (PRA) and severely discourages non-compliance. Currently state law provides for the award of a monetary penalty for violations of the PRA, but the penalty is ultimately assessed on the taxpayer, since the individuals responsible for the violation are not personally liable. It is therefore no surprise that individuals working for public entities have little to fear if they delete an email or shred a document. A board policy spelling out repercussions and sanctions to individuals within the school district who perpetrate violations of the PRA would go a long way towards encouraging letting the sun shine on the Everett School District. Accountability is the only thing that changes non-compliance.

District Finances:

-- Make publicly available what the District spends its money on by posting its check register online. Over 600 school districts in over 30 states have already done this; allowing the public to see how and on what the District spends the public's money is always a good idea. 


Media Relations:

-- The Board should provide for a specified time period for a question and answer session with members of the media. Board members themselves should provide responses to the media, instead of fielding questions to a public relations specialist. No one is fooled by the presence of a "Communications Director" -- everyone knows that when a public agency employs someone skilled at speaking with the public, it means the agency wishes to craft or shape its message to the public in such a way as to control what the public is permitted to know. THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN IF I AM ELECTED TO THE SCHOOL BOARD. I will not "spin" information. I will answer questions honestly. If I do not know the answer, I will say so and tell you when I hope to have the answer. If I am elected to the board, the buck stops with ME.
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