Open sesame: Trustees’ move smart

What a difference a couple of years make.

The Chico Unified School District Board of Trustees and Superintendent Scott Brown haven’t always been shining examples in terms of following open meeting laws. Just a few years ago, before an election replaced three trustees, we were writing about illegally closed meetings, superintendent evaluations held at Brown’s own home and a general sense of “leave us alone; we know what’s best.”

Thankfully, that mindset seems to have shifted, most visibly with the impeding appointment of a Campus Consolidation Committee. The committee will be charged with examining district demographics and recommending adjustments to school boundaries and even school closures. We can’t think of an issue potentially more divisive and controversial. The idea of shuttering schools that have been Chico landmarks for generations promises to top the public outcry surrounding recent events at Marsh Junior High School. It could even make the board’s impending decision about whether to move sixth graders to junior high look like a walk in the park.

Two years ago, the board president at the time kicked a reporter out of a Strategic Planning meeting, contending that the committee was appointed by the superintendent, not the board, and thus not subject to the Ralph M. Brown Act that governs open meetings in California. The board was worried that committee members couldn’t brainstorm and debate freely. That decision was wrong, embarrassing and, most importantly, illegal.

This time, the brainstorming and debate will take place as it should, with the public’s business being done in public. Thanks, school board, for finally getting it right.