Paying public is due a view of teacher contract talks

It was disappointing enough that the talks between USD 259 and teachers union negotiators hit a wall this week even before salary issues could be discussed. It’s worse that some on the district’s side see transparency as an impediment to agreement, and look forward to the closed-door sessions that would come with federal mediation. Mary Whiteside, the district’s director of personnel, told The Eagle that public meetings “hamper the conversation. We’re not able to have that open conversation to try to work through some of the nitty-gritty that happens.” Tom Powell, the district’s general counsel, suggested union officials’ insistence on video recording the negotiating sessions got the talks off to a bad start, because of the prospect of such footage ending up on YouTube. Open meetings may not be fun at times for the participants. But more often than not, the public should be welcome to watch the operation of the government it pays for – and without having to endure suggestions that its presence in the room, whether physical or technological, is some burden or deterrent.