The Difference Between Transparency and Openness

Last night’s Board of Education Meeting at the Springboro High School was especially meaningful to me, not because of any hot button issues which are burning in our community, but the number of times that “transparency” was mentioned in one way or another. I believe it was David Petroni who said something to the effect that the Board has made every attempt to be as transparent as possible, not only in the negotiation process with the Teacher’s Union, but on their Transparency Project as well.

The winner by far in the “transparency count” was Dr. Kelly Kohls who simply by having the role of calling out the next item on the agenda referred to the documents posted on BoardDocs. For whatever reason, it took me this long to view the site and see everything the Board has made available to the public. (And here I am complaining about how hard it is to get people to view RapGenius!) Names, documents, policy numbers, and proposals are all online, well in advance of the meeting, and easily accessible though the Springboro City Schools website. When added to the wealth of information available elsewhere on the site, I’m not sure how much more transparent the Board could possibly be!

However, when it comes to problem solving, simply being able to see the problem doesn’t afford us the opportunity to fix it. As we’ve heard many times in recent school board meetings, parents and students are worried about teaching creationism and arming our school teachers. But without the means to actually do anything about it, they read speeches for the cameras, start community blogs and red ribbon campaigns to show support for our teachers, to which the Board responds with their own campaigns about “Children First” budgets and the promise that a committee is reviewing the language of the proposals. Regardless of the amount of transparency, when the only tools we have to fix the problem are as old as our Republic, the people will respond the same way they have for hundreds of years: campaigns, rallies, and good old fashion mud slinging.

This is where openness comes in, as it isn’t so much a window as it is a door that allows the community to come inside and participate in finding a solution. For all their transparency, I only found one instance of a share button on BoardDocs. There wasn’t any place to leave a comment or suggest a revision, nor was there any means to see what others in the community are currently discussing. I find this shocking in our day and age of Facebook, where we can show our support with a like button and add our comments, posts, and entire groups of people to the discussion. This is not to criticize the efforts of the Board in any way, as I applaud their level of transparency into our public schools, but to invite them to take the next step towards an Open Springboro.

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