BY CHRISTINE BERNSTEIN
Incumbent Candidate for
Los Alamos School Board
Disclaimer: The following is an expression of my own personal opinions, thoughts, ideas and feelings. This is not a representation of the board, members of the board, or district.
I have sat down and written about 4 different pieces on transparency. And each time my writing evolves into a different topic. I start out talking about transparency and the next thing I know I have written about racism, board member duties and responsibilities, anecdotal experiences, and feelings.
I suppose these are all related in some way and I keep trying to figure out how to connect it all. So, I am here again.
Transparency is and has been a concern in this district. I do not deny that. There has been a culture here that has created a feeling of lack of transparency, and in turn, a lack of trust.
I ran four years ago because I wanted transparency. And I have often found myself on the fighting end of making it happen. There are a lot of laws and regulations and a lot of navigating fine lines. I have spent a lot of time and energy trying to come up with ways to promote it without overstepping…and I will tell you, I get really close to that line.
In the report from Mindsteps, the consultant we hired to work with us on the strategic plan, there is a section that discusses this lack of transparency. It is page 25. I recommend you read the report in its entirety. I read it often. I could go on and start yet another transparency and let it evolve into my thoughts on the report, but I am going to stick this out.
I do believe that no one is trying to hide things to be harmful. I do believe that sometimes the district is protecting kids when information is withheld and other times protecting itself. Now, these are my opinions since we haven’t had a meaningful discussion around the topic of transparency yet.
I also recognize that the issue of transparency still exists despite my efforts. Here’s a couple of things I have done: I requested that committee meetings be discussed at board meetings. I discovered that we had no system in place to report to each other what is happening in the committee meetings. So, I requested a standing agenda item so that if anyone attends a committee they have an opportunity to report out.
I recently asked for an item to be placed that would allow for selected public comment to be addressed at a later date. I was denied this one.
I continuously advocate that information come out in clear concise bits. For example: THis thing happened. The district is aware and is taking action. More information will be forthcoming as we move forward. We appreciate your patience and understanding and be assured we are taking the necessary steps. Or something like that.
I realize these are small steps. One thing I have realized on this board is it is better to take small steps than to dive in. Too much resistance if you dive.
And as I think back to the report I feel we have a lot of work to do in this area. I hope it will help guide our discussions as we move forward with the strategic plan. The report in itself is transparent. We didn’t write it, and it is there for all to see. It contains our bright spots and our challenges.
I want to remind people of Los Alamos, I am one person in a board of five. I alone cannot change the culture. But as a team, as a district, and as a community we can. Here’s what I suggest: If any of us hears a rumor or information that seems lacking, ask questions. Reach out. We are all learners of this. I also recommend not jumping to conclusions and worst case scenarios, but try to get curious instead of making assumptions.
Here’s a quote from another of my favorite authors: “All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.” ― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead