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Editorial: Balancing the need to know

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Just two meetings in, the flow of information is shaping up to be a topic of interest for the new District 192 School Board.

Two weeks ago the subject cropped up in a number of proposed amendments to board policy. On Monday, it played a role in discussions about everything from the publication of legal notices to meetings between community education and parks and recreation staff. There was even discussion of a new policy that specifically defines the process by which board members ask for and receive information.

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This probably shouldn't come as a surprise. Even before he was elected last November new board member Tim Burke was critical of what he saw as barriers to getting information from the district. Now that he's on the inside he appears to have made it a personal mission to loosen the flow of information, which he described Monday as a currency too tightly held.

Our position on the matter should be simple. We're a newspaper. Our primary function is making sure people are able to get the information they want and need. And we can't do that unless we have access to the things we need to know. Let information flow like a river, not a creek.

But it's not always that simple.

We agree with some of the changes that have been proposed so far this month. Starting meetings later in the day will make it easier for residents to attend. Broadcasting all meetings on cable television will let people keep up with district activity on their schedule. The more open the district is, the easier it will be for people to trust the decisions it makes.

Other discussions have been less fruitful.

On Monday Burke asked to be kept informed of all meetings between the district's community education department and the city's parks and recreation department. The seemingly simple request ignited a long discussion about just how much board members need to know about the day-to-day activity of its departments. While Burke said all he wanted was a notice of each meeting and minutes after the fact, other board members worried it leaned a bit too much toward micromanagement.

We tend to agree with superintendent Brad Meeks there. Sometimes board members need to let district employees do their job. And sometimes discussions don't lead anywhere.

When they do, we'll find out. And we'll make sure you know, too.

That's the important information, after all.

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