Thumbs up, thumbs down, Feb. 27

Published 9:05 am Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Thumbs Up

EDP pursuing transparency

Too often, leaders of public agencies don’t bother to understand the laws about being a public agency that apply to them. Then, when they run afoul of something like the Open Meetings Act, they try to find any loophole, exception or excuse that will let them gloss over the mistake and claim they were right all along.

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That’s why Friday’s story about the Economic Development Partnership Board of Directors learning about the Open Meetings Act and how it applies to them was such a refreshing read.

Instead of waiting to land in hot water and then asking an attorney how to get out of a sticky situation, the EDP board heard from an attorney — Danville City Attorney Stephen Dexter — about how it could plan ahead to be in compliance with the law when it schedules committee meetings.

This is a cautious thumbs up from us, because actions always speak louder than words and we’re certainly not about to start granting free passes to any government entity just because it takes the right stance or says the right words. The Advocate-Messenger is always vigilant for open meetings violations, even with government entities that have a proven track record of following the law.

That said, we like seeing proactive attempts to maintain transparency with the public. We think every public agency could benefit from an “audit,” if you will, of their open meetings practices, much like what the EDP board went through last week.

Thumbs Down

Lack of clarity on departure of Look

The Danville Board of Education may be one agency that could benefit from a better understanding of the value of transparency, following its decision not to renew Superintendent Keith Look’s contract.

Look is being let go due to the votes of three board members who agree they have “concerns.” What are those concerns? It’s difficult to figure out.

“I have concerns as to whether he is the best fit for Danville Schools,” Board Chair Paige Matthews said last Monday, when the decision not to continue with Look at the helm of Danville Schools was made.

Matthews cited “many phone calls from those that weren’t comfortable sharing their thoughts in public” at that meeting, and declined to comment further about reasons for not renewing Look’s contract in follow-up contacts made by The Advocate-Messenger after the meeting.

Matthews also said at last Monday’s meeting that there “were areas that needed that improvement” on annual evaluations of Look’s performance. That doesn’t sound like the kind of complaint that would be grounds for getting rid of a superintendent to us.

The board decision came this month, after a January meeting where numerous people spoke on behalf of Look, believing the board was considering not renewing his contract. After that meeting, Matthews called the situation a “misunderstanding” because the board is required by the state to evaluate the superintendent annually.

“There hasn’t been, as of yet, but I feel like there will be discussions (about Look’s contract),” Matthews said after the January meeting.

But at the February meeting, without there having been any further public discussion held by the board, Matthews and two other board members — Susan Matherly and Lori Finke — voted not to renew Look’s contract. And they came to the board meeting prepared with written statements concerning the situation.

If there is a good reason or reasons that Look needed to move on, the community that the school serves should know what that reason or reasons are.

The board needs to do a much better job of explaining to the public why they decided Look was the wrong choice and how they arrived at that decision.

Thumbs Up

Devricks are finally a (legal) family

If you didn’t get to read the beautiful adoption story in this weekend’s Advocate-Messenger, you should visit our website or stop in to the office and grab a copy and give it a read.

Advocate-Messenger reporter Robin Hart told the story of Timmy Carl Bowers, who is now legally named Timothy Devrick Bowers, after being adopted at the age of 48 by the couple who had taken him in when he was a neglected teenager.

Bowers had no parental support and essentially raised himself until he was in the eighth grade, when Ron and June Devrick took him into their home. They never formally adopted Bowers, but he became just as much a part of their family as their biological children.

Their story is a sobering reminder of the neglectful family situations that thousands of children still live through today, and proof that the love of adoptive families can heal a lot of those wounds.