Editorial: Highlands residents have right to know
We aren’t going to give up and go away.
Highlands School District can keep making decisions and taking votes without the full light of day, but the Tribune-Review isn’t going to stop going to meetings. We aren’t going to stop paying attention to what is on the agenda and what motions come to the floor.
And when an unnamed employee is put on leave, we are going to ask why.
We are going to ask because a school board is supposed to tell the people what is happening with their tax dollars. Public money pays a school employee. Public money is withheld when that person goes on unpaid leave. It is the public’s children who go to those schools.
All of that makes it in the public interest to know more than just the chalk outline of a school board’s decision.
Highlands has taken the same action three times in 2019 — suspending an employee without pay and approving a statement of charges.
For the third time, the name of the employee has not been released. The nature of the charges has not been disclosed. The name, at least, should have been announced before a vote was taken.
“The fact that they did not leaves the school open to Sunshine Act liability,” said Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel for the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.
Three times, the Trib has submitted Right-to-Know Act requests for information the board should have made public. The first request was fulfilled 10 days after the board fired payroll and benefits secretary Iesha Griffin, but the charges were never revealed.
An appeal is pending on another RTK request over the district’s refusal to identify the second employee. Highlands would only note that the employee is a high school special education teacher employed for 14 years.
We understand that personnel issues are tricky things for government entities. There is a balance of public interest and employee privacy. We understand.
But just because it is a balancing act doesn’t mean that it can happen behind a curtain. It can’t. The people have a right to know about what happens with their money and their children.
And we won’t give up asking just because Highlands doesn’t want to answer.