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The future was on display, and it looked better

No matter what you think of the plans for the upcoming school year, the good news is that along the way to hacking out a path through an impossible situation, the Grand Coulee Dam School District directors Monday displayed what could well be the future model of civic engagement.

The board, while holding its latest Zoom online meeting accessible by the public, did exactly what they are supposed to do in full view of all. Usually, when citizens call up a board member about an issue, the elected representative of the people takes the information and then does something with it, or not.

Monday night, though, the “chat” function of the Zoom video conferencing software served as a vehicle of thoughts instantly generated by the public during board discussion. Board members were keen on watching for the instant feedback and included it in the discussion. They became the conduit between the electorate and the administration, exactly what they are supposed to be doing.

With 39 people in the online meeting, plus the board and administration in the physical meeting room, there was plenty of feedback, good questions, suggestions and reasoned criticism.

Thirty-nine brains are better than five or six.

About 32 years of covering public meetings have never revealed such engaged, constructive discussion at a meeting. Most boards and city councils tend to feel like they operate in a vacuum, not always sure what their constituents would want.

Perhaps the current difficulty will lead us to discover new ways of doing things that make the old ways better than they were. That’s certainly what many educators are hoping could arise out of this horrible situation that isn’t going to please anyone as far as schooling methods go. But working together, it may be possible to salvage worthwhile learning for society, as well as for school students.

Monday’s Zoom meeting on an extremely difficult issue proved the format is worth keeping around, even after the health crisis that made it necessary recedes into history. As teachers and students work through the coming school year, they may find they’ve added a few skillsets that are newly invaluable in the world coming to their immediate future.

Scott Hunter

editor and publisher


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