School board officials who meet for early morning Saturday work sessions on the premise that these allow for public discourse may want to reconsider this long-standing practice.
An article by News reporter Mary B. Pasciak pointed out a peculiar practice by Orchard Park and Sweet Home school board officials. Work sessions get started in Orchard Park at 7 a.m. Sweet Home officials choose to start an hour later.
Holding early Saturday morning sessions does not exactly make for true open government. In fact, New York's leading authority on the topic described it as a case of school boards dodging their obligation under government sunshine laws. Sunshine has very little in common with predawn meetings. While it may be technically "sunny" outside, most people are just beginning to realize it's daylight. Work sessions are held in addition to regular school board meetings and are key in hammering out details for budgets and other proposals. There is generally no opportunity given for public input, but there is an opportunity to listen in on board members' discussions.
Sweet Home Superintendent Geoffrey M. Hicks and Orchard Park Superintendent Joan D. Thomas said there is no intent to be secretive and the meetings are publicized. Still, listen to Robert J. Freeman, executive director of the state's Committee on Open Government, and include budget discussions as part of regular meetings.