Throughout Goochland County’s school budget process, parents and residents have asked a lot of questions.
And they have frequently received a response along the lines of, “Well, there are things in this budget that people may not understand.”
Well, why not?
Why not educate the public as to the intricacies of how a county funds it schools, and why?
And why not say why the school board’s chairman wasn’t available to vote for next year’s budget, a budget that has provoked angry words strung together in speeches, editorials and e-mail campaigns?
There has certainly been no lack of interest in the proceedings; at last week’s school board workshop, as the room filled to the point that elbows were digging into ribs, there was a last-minute decision to move to a bigger space.
So why wouldn’t schools have expected a big crowd, especially considering the relentless queries many in that crowd have lobbed around for months?
I do not believe that there is necessarily a Machiavellian plot taking place in the darkened hallways of Goochland’s public schools, and I do not necessarily believe that criminal misdeeds have taken place in the county’s administrative offices.
But the cause of the public’s dissatisfaction with each of these entities, and the era of distrust and cynicism that this has prompted, is likely, at the bottom of it all, due to one fundamental thing: A lack of understanding.
Obviously many in our county government did not understand what their jobs entailed, they did not understand how to perform those jobs with accuracy and oversight, and they failed to report problems as they occurred.
And in our school system, I believe that administration did not understand how fiercely parents will fight to protect the best interests of their children.
It may be hard to tell a parent exactly why a particular administrative job is more crucial than a particular teaching one—but why not try?
An attempt by school administration to clear away misinformation, or even to clearly state tangible reasons for cutting certain programs and retaining certain staff, would have eased a lot of the resentment out there among Goochland parents.
Nobody is saying that these aren’t strange times to run a government or a school system; our mercurial economy is making things hard to predict and address.
But when our elected and appointed officials refuse to even answer questions, especially when those officials are in the business of imparting knowledge, well: That can seem very strange indeed.