One of our goals as a Board of Education is to make effective communication a priority. Board of Education meetings are held on a regularly scheduled basis; well publicized on the Nutley Board of Education website, TAPinto Nutley, The Star-Ledger and Nutley Sun; and held in public meeting spaces—most often in John H. Walker Middle School. Board of Education members provide our email addresses on our Board of Education website so that any member of the public has the ability to reach out and speak with us about issues affecting the District. However, consistently, when speaking to citizens, I learn that they have been misinformed about current issues affecting the District. And, in many cases the inaccuracies are significant.
Recently, a citizen criticized the Board of Ed for an action they believed was inappropriate. I invited the citizen to sit down with me to discuss his concerns and we both learned that much of the information he was hearing had no basis in fact. Rumor and hearsay can damage the best of reputations. Too often we gather information through Facebook or other non-fact checked sources that is misconstrued and thus we become misled. That’s both unfortunate and dangerous to a public who has a desire to be factually informed.
So, despite the many ways the public has to contact their Board of Education, misinformation persists. However, I believe it falls on us as BOE members to find a better way to communicate to help ensure that correct information get circulated, rather than hearsay and rumors. Some recommendations I have to try to improve communication with the broader community are to experiment with holding our meetings at a different elementary school each month. This small step might stimulate better attendance at these meetings where interactive communications can be heard first hand. Or, perhaps the citizens of Nutley need to receive the same information the parents of Nutley students receive. There needs to be a better way to make sure information is disseminated accurately and clearly, and it’s something I am committed to working toward.
Another concern that I’ve heard is regarding the relationship between the Township Commissioners and the Board of Education. We are very fortunate in Nutley to have both boards working together whenever possible. There is a mutual respect and understanding between these boards and they cooperate with one another routinely. Six Years ago the BOE also formed a committee to attend and represent the BOE at as many Township Board of Commissioner meetings as possible. This has been beneficial in keeping the lines of communication open between the two boards.
Despite the many ways people have to communicate these days—email, text, social media—or perhaps, more likely, because of the overabundance of ways to communicate, it can be a challenge to get accurate information about school related issues. However, I will continue to make effective communication of Board of Education information a priority. While I have and will continue to occasionally ask for your patience in matters that are sometimes not able to be disseminated to the public, whether for legal or safety reasons, or because they are simply still in discussion among the Board at large, I will always be as accessible and transparent with my communication as possible.