Empathy with Apathy

I very much wanted to attend Donna Hughes’s lecture this evening at URI’s Kingston campus, but with teacher contract negotiations still ongoing, I felt somewhat obligated to attend tonight’s school committee meeting. Committee and union members alike may be asking: What school committee meeting? Apparently, it was canceled, but I’m not sure how a regular ol’ citizen could have known.
The Town of Tiverton’s Web site doesn’t mention anything, even in the Quick Announcements and Notices section. The town calendar doesn’t even include school committee meetings. The parent handbook says, “Announcement of all regular School Board Meetings will be made to the Newport
Daily News as least two (2) days prior to the meeting by the Superintendent,” but that paper’s Web site doesn’t seem like the place to check for updates. Nor does the Fall River Herald News, to which the school committee’s page instructs readers to turn, instead of the Newport Daily News.
Having a simple and consistent means for interested townspeople to check for basic operational information that will allow them to plan their lives is a basic requirement for a functional governing body. I have to say that I can empathize with my fellows’ apathy. This sort of unpredictability is unacceptable, and it only helps those who’ve organized in order to take as much as they can from the taxpayers.
It is incredibly simple, and virtually free, to set up an email list to which all interested parties can subscribe in order to receive up-to-date schedule changes and announcements. (And their receipt of the emails will help to motivate citizens’ attendance.) At the very least, there ought to be a single page on the Internet to which all town boards and committees can post announcements.

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16 years ago

The SECSTATE’s website still has it posted for tonight.
I’d suggest you sign up for the e town crier notifcations but it looks like it didn’t work in this case.
I’d call SECSTATE’s Office tomorrow to inquire as to when it was canx’d…
Here is what they have posted:
Tiverton School Committee
* GovTracker Info
* All Meetings
Contact Information
Contact Person: Kathleen Griffith
Phone: (401) 624-8475
Email: rid04792 at ride.ri.net
Meeting Information
Date: October 23, 2007
Time: 07:00 PM
Location: 100 North Brayton Road, , Tiverton, RI 02878
Filed on: October 18, 2007 at 11:11 AM
* Agenda filed on October 18, 2007 at 11:11 AM
Meeting Minutes
* No minutes on file for this meeting. Please contact this entity using the information above.

16 years ago

The announcement of a meeting including its location MUST be posted/advertised with 48 hours notice in a couple of specific places. Those places vary by the municipality and the body; usually, it is a specific newspaper plus a notice at city/town hall. Any variation – say, of location – from this is a major violation of Open Meeting Laws.
At the same time, all of the “courtesy” postings of meetings – such as on cable channel 17 – while well intentioned, must be ignored. The council or committee has no obligation to maintain the accuracy of those notices. There was at least one instance in South Kingstown several years ago when a School Comm meeting was moved at the “last minute”. (Something controversial was going on, a segment of the public and the press was expected to attend and the SC decided, “Ve vant to be alone, dahling.”) The SC posted the notice in the required locations but everyone just read the courtesy postings, went to the wrong location, assumed the meeting was cancelled and the School Comm got its wish – no one attended that particular meeting. (Bad intent? What bad intent?)
What I do not know is if the CANCELLATION of a meeting must be advertised with 48 hours notice. Presumably not; if it turns out that a quorum is lacking because enough members of the body cannot attend at the last minute, they would have no choice but to cancel the meeting.
It’s definitely worth a follow up call to find out what happened in this case, Justin.

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