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What’s Next? Communication.

Posted on 21 May 2008

Well, the Sag Harbor school budget has passed, the board candidates have been elected — with one new member taking a seat — and the search is on for a new superintendent to take over the helm of the district.

We are happy the budget was supported but feel one of the things that factored into the reasoning of those who voted “no” is misunderstanding. With the board in place, it’s a good time to talk about what’s next. For us, it has to start with communication.

In the course of covering not only the school board, but pretty much every board in Sag Harbor, it has come to our attention that this is a village that thrives on miscommunication. That’s the way it often is in small towns. A provocative statement is bandied about, and repeated ad nauseam — at the post office, on the street, in a restaurant. Pretty soon, it becomes part of the local vernacular, and even if it has no basis in actual fact, the piece of information takes on a mythic quality which people won’t drop even in the face of solid empirical evidence to the contrary.

They make decisions at the polls based upon this bit of information in their head — largely because no one has managed to put any other relevant information in their head.

Which is why communication is so vital. In order for a community to get behind its school, the school needs to be behind the community. So to the school board: we charge you to be as open and forthright as possible with your information so misstatements don’t become assumed fact as they pass from one uninformed mouth to another.

We also charge you to make sure that the school staff and administrators are communicating with the public — and that includes the local paper. Impress upon them the importance of sharing information about what the students are doing — be it on sports teams, field trips, science prizes or performances. Let the school shine beyond its brick and mortar confines and show the taxpayers — all taxpayers — what their money is getting them. Let them know about the good things that are going on at the school, so when it comes time to pull that lever next year, they’ll have more to consider than one select tidbit of prime misinformation. 

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