Transparency continues to be a problem with government, at all levels, in my opinion. Local government agencies, like the PAUSD and the City of Palo Alto (CPA), could open the window on the inner workings of the PAUSD, a little, by taking advantage of social networking tools, like Skype, Instant Messenger, and Google/VideoChat, by offering “Virtual Office Hours”—which would provide the public access to each of you, singly, or in small groups, to discuss issues, ideas, or changes to anything from the schedule to the curriculum.
Most people have little, or no, access to public officials. Time, distance, and other commitments make it difficult to connect with the individuals whom we have elected to oversee our various governmental agencies. We have no real idea who our elected officials are, or what they might think about an issue that is still “beneath the radar”, to those of most pressing importance. “Virtual Office Hours” would open the doors to more people’s being able to have a face-to-face discussions with those in whom we have invested our trust.
The technology to offer VideoChats is now commonly available, via the Internet, and free, client-side, software, like the Google Chrome browser, and plug-ins that are also free to download. Google/Hangouts will allow up to eight people to connect in a session, and doubtless other software will emerge supporting even more users, in time.
It’s past time for our local government agencies (such as the PAUSD and CPA) to offer the voters, residents and businesses state-of-the-art out-reach to the community they service. There would be no cost to using this technology—other than a commitment of time on the part of our school officials to be more open to the voters/parents than they currently are.