Accusations, rumors lead officials to talk transparency

During election season, public officials are subjected to a higher level of scrutiny as voters try to decide who they want to represent them.

Over the past month, Oxford’s Board of Education felt that in a very real way, with speculation and fingers pointed in its direction.

Before voters went to the polls on Nov. 6, board members and Superintendent Tim Throne attempted to reassure the public by addressing some rumors and stressing the importance that the district places on transparency.

“I think that it is important that I address some of these comments or questions that have been made (by) our public,” Throne said. “I want our public to know where we’re at. I’m not trying to take a position, I’m not trying to do anything like that. . . . In a very clear way (I want to) try and explain some very complicated topics.”

Throne responded to rumors he has either heard around town or read on social media and explained them. Topics he addressed included finances and foreign exchange students. Throne argued that funding from online and school-of-choice students has helped maintain its quality of education throughout hard financial times, such as the Great Recession of 2007-09, and noted that international students pay tuition when they come to Oxford outside of exchange programs.

“Here’s my caution – (finances) can be very difficult to interpret if you do not live within that world,” Throne said.

Nearly all of board members present followed Throne’s statements with agreement and a desire for the community to express their concerns to them in person.

“I don’t know how much more clear we can be and how much more transparent we can (make) ourselves through these things that Tim (Throne) said,” said Trustee Heather Shafer.

“You can always recoup money, but you can’t recoup a kid,” said Trustee Dan D’Alessandro. “If we don’t give them our all, we’ve failed that individual.”

“It’s fine to ask questions,” said Board Treasurer Jenny Guthrie. “That’s what we want. That helps us all learn and grow together . . . This board, Mr. Throne’s cabinet and Mr. Throne are open to questions. The door is open. The transparency is there.”

“I want to tell everybody… it’s an open door (here),” said Board President Tom Donnelly. “You want to meet once a month, and pick a subject every month, and dig into that subject because you think that there’s a snake under the rock? Let’s attack it. We’ve got nothing to hide.”

The board insisted it has an open-door policy, as did Throne. Though much of the board was not seeking re-election during Tuesday’s vote, the members tried to reassure their constituency that, in their opinion,the people’s votes were well spent on them and they’re looking toward students’ futures with open minds and good intentions.

“We so badly want to be the government that is working for our constituency,” Guthrie said. “I can’t emphasize (enough) how true that is.”