As we open our textbooks this morning, let us begin with the chapter entitled, School Board, re: vacancies.
Gulf County still has one, nearly a year after the passing of long-time board member Billy Quinn, Jr.
And, at this point well into 2020, the year Mr. Quinn would have been up for re-election, it would be unlikely, and fundamentally unfair to all involved, to make any kind of appointment now.
What exactly that says is really now the question and it is not assisted by the governor’s Office of Open Records, which based on experience is an oxymoron.
The last request of the list of names of those who applied to succeed Mr. Quinn was Jan. 24; we are still waiting on a reply.
Response to an original request in October was even longer.
This is a list of five to seven names, we believe.
One individual filed in April shortly after Mr. Quinn’s untimely death.
Another applied during the summer.
The remainder of applicants, and this number is a variable for those who have taken math class, filed in October and after a series of stories began running in this newspaper concerning the vacancy and the difficulty gleaning information about applicants.
There is also an individual attending school board meetings who said he has filed but his name was not among six applicants in a packet supplied to this newspaper by one of the applicants.
Herein, our story becomes murky as the applicant’s request in January for those who had applied for the appointment appeared to come from the Office of Open Records, the genuine article.
But on the office’s website, their request for information can not be found nor can this newspaper’s.
If this reads like a spy novel, tweak some elements of the plot, and James Bond would be proud.
And theories are what remain for the viewer until this tale plays out.
Let us wonder if the lack of filling the position early on, from among the initial two candidates, was because they are Democrats.
That would make this appointment something of a small symptom of the divide, deep and becoming more personal by the day, in this country.
A Republican governor appointing a Democrat to fill the seat; the shame.
Not to mention the irony as running for a seat on the Gulf County School Board is alleged to be a non-partisan pursuit, parties are inconsequential.
Another source of wonderment is exactly the concept in establishing the Office of Open Records.
These are, in fact, public records, but the process, of phone calls and email exchanges that eventually are lost to the ether, is anything but “open” in practice.
My email thread as more names from Tallahassee than there are people in my wife’s Sunday School class.
Just to provide a contrast, some years back the sheriff left for another county and filling his position lured a large field of applicants, more than 20.
When requesting the names of those applicants, the newspaper was provided not just the names, but the entire application submitted by each of those candidates.
And the governor’s press office did so by fax machine.
Try to remember back to the days dinosaurs and fax machines roamed the earth and consider the pages and time involved in faxing those applications.
Those public records; and without having to mortgage a home to receive them as governments throughout the land have learned that one revenue stream is requests for records which should be open to the public.
Toss that aside and consider how little state officials thought of an empty seat on the school board for a county devastated by a natural disaster.
If those positions are truly of so little consequence, why elect a School Board?
This isn’t a question for this writer, but it should be a question the legislative delegation, particularly a senator who is a former school official, has of the governor.
There is a final, and fully selfish, push to see the seat filled as quickly as possible, even if it has to be with the fall elections.
The Gulf County School Board in the next two years has the opportunity to demonstrate that government can function just fine when all voters have a say in all seats on a county-wide board.
Once fully five members, it is the School Board, which is not bound by any federal decree, that can lead the way out away from single-member districts and a vote for all seats system as practiced throughout the vast majority of the country.
Providing valuable lessons that thus far the quest to fill a vacant board seat has not.