There is no doubt that Board President Larry Rosenwald is a master of control. This time, he has figured out how to not only muzzle the public, but also his own board!
At the November 13, 2006 board meeting, Mr. Rosenwald introduced a new meeting format. Under the pretext that much of the public comment has been repetitive, he has devised a new format whereby the board holds off any response to public comment until all members of the public have been heard under the “Audience Recognition” agenda item. Then, under a new agenda item now called “Information,” Mr. Rosenwald selectively replies to the comments made. In a stoke of pure genius, the board can now ignore questions in a less obvious manner, as most audience members and TV viewers are not taking notes during the “Recognition” segment, and can restate the questions in a manner that suits the “answers” the board wishes to provide.
At the November 20, 2006 board meeting, Mr. Rosenwald continued this format, showing off his ability not only to disable the public’s ability to follow-up on his responses, but to also muzzle his fellow board members. In reply to one citizen who specifically asked a question of Board Member Joss Gelfand as a follow-up to a comment Mr. Gelfand had made at a previous board meeting, Mr. Rosenwald made it clear that the public may not direct its questions to particular members. Reminiscent of the bully in the school yard, Mr. Rosenwald made it clear that he had all the answers and he would decide who on the board would reply to each question. Mr. Gelfand remained obediently quiet.
If fact, all board members have dutifully remained silent while Mr. Rosenwald has answered nearly every question of every meeting since announcing his new procedure, tossing only a few questions to Superintendent Savedoff who clearly understands the new game. In reply to a question about why the board has chosen to distribute information stating that Upper Dublin School District is building a high school of the same relative size and cost as the New Harriton, Mr. Savedoff admitted that the information provided did not really relate to a construction project but rather it reflected one option of a feasibility study, but he reiterated that it was an example of a school of the same size and cost. However, he conveniently ignored the question raised regarding the fact that the proposed Upper Dublin project was 338,000 square feet for 1600 students versus our new Harriton at 328,000 square feet for 1250 students.
This new format also afforded Mr. Rosenwald an opportunity to strike back at lmsd.info without anyone being able to reply. During the "Recognition" period, I offered to put the Upper Dublin Facilities Task Force Report on our website so that the public could evaluate the District’s claim that the Upper Dublin project was comparative to our proposed projects. In an attack that one might expect from an argumentative teen, Mr. Rosenwald lashed out at me, saying that we purport to be an “unbiased” source of information and yet, we ran the Act 34 Hearing “but could have just as easily posted the board meetings where many people spoke in support of the project.” It is hard to take such a criticism seriously from a Board that has a highly sophisticated website of its own that it routinely uses to promote its own agenda.
So here is my reply. Because I don’t know what board meetings he is referring to, and I don’t have DVD’s of those meetings, as the Board does, I would ask that the school board simply post all school board meetings on its website, and I would ask all members of the public to contact the board at firstname.lastname@example.org with that same request. While you're at it, tell them what you think of Mr. Rosenwald's new meeting format. Also, I would note that we provide a link to the school board’s website in our “links to other sources” location and would ask that the District give us the same courtesy by adding a link to lmsd.info.
So what is the real purpose of Mr. Rosenwald’s new format? Is it to cut down on repetitive answers as Mr. Rosenwald claims? Like the Board President himself likes to say, we’ll let the public decide!