Rolling up the red carpet

Meet-and-greet for superintendent finalist treated public shabbily
Superintendent finalist Angela Pringle talked to the press after undergoing her second interview Friday.

Nothing says “Welcome to Augusta” like locked doors to an open meeting.

Really, what was the point of all the heavy-handed access control during the meet-and-greet for Richmond County school superintendent finalist Angela Pringle on Friday?

When the information session was first announced, the public was told they would not be allowed to leave and re-enter the Board of Education chambers. Then, anyone who showed up even a minute late to the 1 p.m. meeting was greeted by closed doors and armed guards.

It’s understandable for the Board of Education to promote decorum and minimize interruption during the interview with its sole superintendent finalist, but Friday’s clampdown on public access was an imperious gesture to the public.

Those lucky enough to get into the board
auditorium found a meeting that was highly controlled, with a Georgia School Board Association official pre-screening their written questions to make sure they were “appropriate for the interview setting.”

Just who are we vetting here? The director of our children’s schools, or the head of the CIA?

The school district consumes more of our local taxes than any other government entity, and the citizens who fund its operations have a right to know how its decisions are made.

Yet the school board acts as though it is doing taxpayers a favor by opening the interview process to the public. And to do so only after narrowing its candidate list down to a sole finalist shows a disappointing level of opacity.

Why couldn’t the board have let the public in on the process once it developed its “short list” of candidates? Bringing the public in now is like giving it a choice between Option A and Option A.

Why couldn’t the board release its top three candidates, as has been common practice? Why did it instead choose to make a cramped interpretation of the state Open Records Act that not only violates the spirit of the law, but possibly the letter of it as well?

Above all, what does this say to Pringle, the sole finalist? That Augusta considers the ability of bureaucrats to control information more important than transparency and accountability in its school system? What a poor introduction to Richmond County.

There’s been a woeful lack of openness in the search to replace the outgoing Dr. Frank Roberson since Day One. Locking the doors to Pringle’s “public” meeting Friday wasn’t the only example of this, just the most insulting.

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