Key to a good start on health clinic is to turn on the lights

True confessions from the newsroom…
1. Not surprisingly, your local journalists are not immune to the effects of these viruses sweeping the land – and we’re not talking just about the omega variant here.
Case in point: We were all geared up to cover Thursday evening’s School Board meeting in person, which is the way we believe all government meetings should be covered. But as Zero Hour neared, it became very evident that the afore-mentioned virus(es) had struck and we were short-staffed.
It was regrettable, because we really wanted to have someone there live to report on what was going on, but were forced to opt for a backup plan that involved remote learning, so to speak.
Like we hear from a lot of the kids: it works. But as they also say, it sucks. Watching a meeting on YouTube, it’s easy to miss those crucial nonverbals – the gestures, the eye movements, voice inflections, etc. when you’re listening to a tinny microphone and watching what essentially is a security camera that records people in less-than-ideal digital quality (“Is that so-and-so? Sounds like him/her.”)
Virtual may not show you what you need to see as a reporter. Masks certainly don’t help either.
But we digress.
2. Some of our staffers have wondered if we were the only ones whose eyebrows arched when we heard at last month’s School Board meeting about the school-based health clinic that is being planned for Lebanon High School. It seemed to come out of … nowhere.
Well, it didn’t really, as our story on page 5 explains, but we are still wondering about, if not the legality of it all, at least the transparency factor.
Oregon public meetings law applies to any governing body of a public body, which is why it applies to the School Board, which governs the School District. But it also applies to any advisory body that is authorized to furnish advice to a public body, like a School Board, on what moves to make.
So the question is, at what point does this advisory group enter that role, if ever? In our collective memories, it was never “officially” designated as such by the School Board – not in any meetings we can recall covering – and we’ve searched our stories for fine print.
But the planning group was formed by someone, and local citizens who care about what’s going on are justified in wondering exactly how all this came about. There are definitely some gray areas here, and frankly, transparency is a great way to cut through the fog.
Here’s the real issue that Lebanon School Board members and administrators need to keep in mind: This on-campus health clinic proposal a very big deal for people on all sides of the spectrum. Whether the concerns voiced by the speakers who challenged the School Board Thursday evening will be shared by many remains to be seen, but the volume of their outcries should be a tip-off to the School Board and to administrators that this thing needs to come out into the bright sunshine.
The district should be very transparent from here on out, not just to pacify residents who are concerned about what it represents to them negatively, but for those who see a need and believe this might meet that need.
Announce meetings and, when appropriate, provide ample time for citizens to express themselves.
Decorum should be key from here on out, as well.
There will be disagreements and screaming matches are not the way to get things done. There’s a lot of angst circulating through our community right now –along with the above-mentioned virus(es). Not everybody is going to get what they want, but negotiation and, maybe, a little compromise could lead to a result a lot more people are happy with.
And if the district turns the lights on this thing, it will be a much better outcome – for everyone.