"It's not a dialogue and won't ever be."
That was President Mary Ellen Meindl's flat-out shutdown of public discussion at the Nov. 27 Riverside District 96 school board meeting regarding serious allegations brought by Ames Principal Colleen Lieggi against a recently "retired" teacher as well as the parents of another Ames School student.
It may come as a surprise to Ms. Meindl that school districts do not operate as isolated fiefdoms apart from the communities they are responsible to, who pay the taxes to support them and carry serious oversight regarding future bond referendums, relying on the trust they place in them regarding their performance and accountability. Perhaps she had in mind schools within Russian satellites rather than American communities.
It also may come as a surprise to Ms. Meindl that a primary tenet of democracy is the right of citizens to "full and transparent disclosure'' of information (despite its frequent abrogation) rightfully due them in fulfilling their responsibilities as conscientious citizens.
It is totally logical to assume a degree of intimidation and fear felt on the part of teachers and parents should they publicly question and demand accountability from the board, the principal, the district superintendent. Also, the effect on school morale could be devastating.
As crucial as honest disclosure is, when the reputations and livelihood of individuals in our community are maliciously destroyed, covered up, bought off, then some major degree of moral outrage is demanded.
As a former school board member of a grade school (different school, different location), I cannot imagine ever agreeing to not read a police report laying out all the facts regarding such serious allegations. Were they all out to lunch?
To quote a board member, "We were told by our attorney that reading it would be illegal."
Who was he representing, the school district or the children and families of Ames School, not to mention the entire Riverside community?
We, my board, would have fired him.
Not to get all gooey about our democratic social compacts within our community, but on every level, honoring our responsibility to our school, the staff and especially the children and the parents, is essential. We are all responsible.
This investigation has not "been completed."