Canon-Mac needs to publicly debate safety policies

On June 24, the Canon-McMillan School Board voted unanimously to approve a health and safety plan for the 2021-22 school year. Since then, the delta variant has emerged and caused widespread public debate by school boards locally and nationally as to whether previously approved safety protocols should be revised. Canon-McMillan is a notable exception, as its board has stubbornly refused to publicly debate or vote on the issue.

Recently, school boards in neighboring districts Bethel Park, Chartiers-Houston, Peters Township and Upper St. Clair publicly debated and voted on whether to adjust safety policies. The outcomes of these votes varied. However, at its board meeting last Thursday, the Canon-McMillan board decided to pass. At the outset of the meeting, the board preemptively punted, announcing it would not publicly debate or vote one way or another on the issue.

Prior to the meeting, in an Aug. 18 letter to the Observer-Reporter, Canon-McMillan School Board member Joseph Zupancic publicly went on the record stating that he believes the district should indeed consider revising to its safety protocols.

Since the board approved the current safety policy, the virus has evolved and so with it too apparently have the views of Zupanic, not to mention the views of many community members. However, what remains shielded from public view is whether the individual views of board members Manuel Pihakis, Pete Moniodes, Michael Caporizzo, Zeffie Carroll, Mark Dopudja, Mary Beth Kline, and Bernard Price have changed at all.

The public is divided on whether masking and social distancing should be required in schools this fall. However, all taxpayers, parents, and students alike should be able to find common ground and agree that publicly elected school board members should publicly go on the record as to their individual views on this critical and controversial issue.

The board seems content on hiding behind the curtain of an executive session for any debate on what is likely the most consequential issue its members will ever face. Such an approach is feckless and places the public in the position of making assumptions when determining whether these officials on an individual basis are worthy of re-election.

We should expect more of our elected leaders. Transparency is necessary and overdue.

The Canon-McMillan School Board must call an emergency special voting meeting prior to the start of school this Thursday and place its members on the public record.

Rory Hassler