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A watchdog

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By The Staff

What would my dad do?

I have asked myself that question many times within the past week and a half.

Apparently, the stars have been out of whack or something because some unbelievably strange things have happened to me in the newspaper world lately. I have found myself scratching my head, in utter dismay, and wondering to myself, "What would my dad do?"

As many of you know, my father was the editor of this newspaper in 1979, the year I was born. And during the eight years he was editor here, my dad was known for being firm, steadfast and annoyingly persistent. Most people would agree, my dad was a respected newspaper editor. When it came to being a watchdog for the community, he didn't back down to anyone. No matter if it was an angry public official or a furious elderly lady that used her purse as a weapon, he stood his ground.

My dad was the editor here during some heated scandals. At one time, his life (and my mom's life) was threatened because of articles he wrote. But, that didn't stop him from doing his job. No matter who might disapprove, get upset, or even threaten him, he never wavered. He was this community's watchdog. His bark was loud and his bite was sharp. As a result, he was one of the best editors that this newspaper has ever had, in my opinion.

My father's ability to face controversy head-on and not flinch is something I admire. It's something I continually try to achieve. And, as I gain more and more experience in the newspaper business, my skin is getting tougher and my instincts are getting keener. In fact, there have been a few times, recently in fact, when I could almost feel my father's spirit coming out of my fingertips as I typed. It was surreal. Sort of eerie, to be honest. And those odd occurrences have happened most often when I'm expressing an opinion that I know, while controversial, is right.

Such is the case this week with the editorial concerning the school board violating the Open Meetings Act. I know the board members and superintendent won't approve of what I wrote. But, I firmly stand by every single word.

To make a long story short, a discussion took place behind closed doors that I believe should have taken place in open session. It's as simple as that. It's an example of why the Open Meetings Act exists in the first place. (For more details, read the accompanying editorial.)

The board asserts that, while committing a "technical violation" of the Open Meetings Act and referencing the incorrect subsection of the statute, that its closed session was "appropriate" because it included "confidential information regarding the individuals and their families."

However, I know from talking with one of the parents involved that the issue discussed behind closed doors could potentially affect an entire neighborhood of children. Therefore, I believe the parents of those children should be privy to the discussion that took place during the executive session last week. That information should not be kept secret, especially if it could affect children and where they go to school.

Furthermore, if the closed-door discussion is any indication that there have been some mistakes made regarding our district's attendance boundaries, which I believe to be the case, those mistakes should be made public. The community has a right to know what's going on, and how the board is going to resolve the issue. Meanwhile, the Marion County Board of Education has a responsibility to be open and honest with the public. The keyword being "open."

As for me, I'm going to continue doing my job, which is to be a watchdog for this community. It's something I take very seriously.

After all, it's in my blood.