A local education group is urging the Hamilton County Board of Education to adopt new policies to improve transparency and accountability of the local school system.

Superintendent Rick Smith. (Photo: Staff)

UnifiEd, the nonprofit organization, outlined four proposals it said were included in a recent letter to Superintendent Rick Smith and school board members that would improve communication and increase public participation in the Department of Education.

The proposals are:

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-Allow for more citizen input by removing requirements restricting public comment at school board meetings. Citizens are currently required to provide a written request 72 hours in advance that must be approved by the superintendent and school board chair.

-Online publication of the school board’s agenda and support materials at least seven days before a meeting. According to the proposal, the support material should include grants, contracts and policy changes.

-Online publication of the Department of Education’s budget in an easy-to-read and searchable format. A summary of its budgets are only posted on Hamilton County’s website and do not include the same level of detail that administrators and board members see.

-Move school board meetings into the community where more residents can attend. Meetings are currently held on Bonny Oaks Drive, which makes it difficult for some residents to attend.

“Getting the community engaged in our schools is key to making them the best in the South,” said Elizabeth Crews, executive director of UnifiEd. “In order to have an engaged community, the system must be transparent, accessible and accountable.”

The proposals stem from recent community meetings hosted by UnifiEd. In a news release, the organization said parents and teachers expressed frustration about the lack of transparency in the school system’s governance.

“Public schools are the public’s business,” said Linda Mosley, a former school board member and UnifiEd’s board director. “Unless the school system is willing to open its books and its meetings, it won’t be possible to get the kind of support that we need to make our schools the best.”

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